What Janine is Reading: Kate Daniels Edition
Warning: As this post deals with older books I consider spoilers fair game.
Recently I caught a bad cold and, since I was laid up in bed with little to do but read, I used this opportunity to catch up on the Kate Daniels series. I had previously read only Magic Bites (2007), book one in the series, which I didn’t care for at all, and more recently, Magic Steals (2015), the second Dali and Jim novella, which I liked much better. It was the latter novella’s wonderfulness that decided me on giving Kate a second shot.
Magic Burns (Kate Daniels book 2) by Ilona Andrews (2008)
My Kate Daniels binge started with Magic Burns, which at first wasn’t that promising. There’s the theft of the pack’s survey map by a mysterious guy who can teleport and likes to make unwanted advances on Kate, Kate’s search for street kid Julie’s missing mother (a member of an amateur coven), more unwanted advances on Kate, this time from Saiman, the introduction of Kate’s co-worker Andrea, and the revelation that Beast Lord Curran is interested in Kate sexually, and perhaps even romantically.
Curran (I almost called him Currant) and his overinflated ego had turned me off in book one, and while here the tone of his interactions with Kate was flirtier, I was still on the fence. I also wasn’t convinced I should care about Kate until about two thirds or perhaps three quarters of the way through the book, but the last quarter was much better, with Kate coming through for Andrea and Julie, Andrea coming through for Kate, and Curran making himself and his shifters useful, albeit after a counterproductive fight with Bran (the mysterious teleporter). Bran’s ultimate sacrifice was affecting, and I loved the bit about the flowers that grew from Kate’s tears for him. C+/B-.
Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels book 3) by Ilona Andrews (2009)
This one was better. Here Jim and his staff are holding out on Curran for reasons that seem sinister initially but later turn out to be anything but. Raphael wants to court Andrea, who isn’t interested, and Kate does a favor for Derek which she later regrets. She also ends up fighting in the Midnight Games, a lethal tournament in which the prize is something very dangerous indeed. There’s a cool reveal about Saiman, we learn a lot more about Kate’s background in this book, and Kate and Curran get closer.
I think this might be where Curran started growing on me. He’s still not among my favorite Andrews heroes, even now, but here I started seeing how he could perhaps be good for Kate. Kate herself became a more compelling figure, with some of the revelations about her past. I could have done with less violence, and I wanted a little more in the way of emotional moments earlier on, but I was moved by what happened to Derek, and I loved a confrontation between Kate and Jim over it, as well as Julie’s role in helping to heal Derek. The authors write kids really well, and I think the child / guardian relationships in their books are some of my favorite aspects of them. The finale of this book was strong, too. B-/B
Magic Mourns (Raphael and Andrea novella) by Ilona Andrews (2009)
Here we’ve got a novella about Raphael and Andrea in which a giant version of three-headed mythological dog Cerberus features. Andrea gets a call and goes to investigate, running into Raphael. In the process of uncovering a conspiracy that involves the theft of hyena Alpha (and Raphael’s mother) Aunt B.’s mate’s body, vampires, and more, Andrea allows Raphael to persuade her to give mating a try. There’s a revelation about Andrea’s childhood that brought tears to my eyes, but I also thought it was piling on too much. Additionally, while I liked Raphael and Andrea together, I wasn’t entirely convinced they belonged together and were on solid ground. And indeed, readers will see them encounter some big bumps in their road to happiness if they read on. I could’ve done without the scene in which Andrea and Raphael rolled around in garbage to disguise their scents. B-.
Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels book 4) by Ilona Andrews (2010)
Now this book rocked. It begins with Kate unearthing the arrival of a dangerous plague bringer who attacks some of Atlanta’s most powerful organizations, and ends with a fight to the death with a scary character who has an interesting relationship to Kate. There’s a feeling of almost non-stop action. Kate and Curran’s courtship hits a snag early on, the cause of which I still don’t fully understand, and would like to understand better. Was it a misunderstanding, or did a third party mislead them to try and break them up? (If there’s more to come on this topic, please don’t spoil me).
Regardless, Kate takes some huge steps in this book, and I think this was where I started loving her, partly for caring so much about the people in her life and being willing to sacrifice and fight for them, and partly for taking no prisoners. Curran is still his cocky self, but he puts himself in harm’s way for Kate so my thaw toward him continues. Oh, and the Big Bad of this book was truly scary, interesting, and even a little fleshed out. There’s a scene where that villain lays what seems like a curse on Kate. I wondered if it would come true. B+.
Magic Dreams (Jim and Dali novella #1) by Ilona Andrews (2011)
This novella might be my favorite work in the series so far. It begins with magic user / white tiger shape shifter Dali discovering that Jim is not himself, sleepy and confused. As the two investigate the deaths of some pack members they discover that a magical being is behind those, and behind the curse affecting Jim. They also have to face their unacknowledged feelings for one another, which Dali fears to admit.
Dali is quite possibly my favorite character in this series. Maybe she’s not as ass kicking as Kate but she is brave and fascinating in her own way. Jim is a good character too – definitely the strong, silent type, as well as committed to the people who died and to Dali’s safety. I loved the way Dali risked herself for Jim, and also the bit with the butterflies. Kate and Curran are a little too bestest specialest but Dali and Jim feel more real to me. B+.
Magic Slays (Kate Daniels book 5) by Ilona Andrews (2011)
Another very strong book. Kate is still adjusting to her new role as pack alpha or “Consort” (a title I dislike as much as she does, and hope to see go away), as well as to working for herself. Here we have an unpiloted vampire on the loose, the return of a glum Andrea, now ejected from the Order and split from Raphael, the addition of Derek and teenage bouda Ascanio to Kate’s investigative agency, and a case that involves a missing inventor and his terrifying device.
Things I liked about this one: Kate’s discovery that her mother and stepfather had feet of clay, the way Atlanta’s magical organizations worked together, the Russian sorcerers, a crisis that put Julie’s life in danger, the steps Kate was willing to go to save her child, and most especially a scene in which Kate’s doubts about Curran’s love for her are put to rest.
I was less keen on Andrea in this book. I wanted her to get over her moping and take charge of her life. I also wasn’t sure how I felt about Ascanio until later in the book. This book felt less high octane, nonstop entertainment than Magic Bleeds, but I did love the scenes I mentioned, and now I fear for the future of Kate’s relationship with Julie. B+
Some thoughts on the books I’ve read so far:
Two factors readers should consider is that (A) I almost never binge read a series back to back but I have done so here and (B) I had a cold when I read these books but still enjoyed them! It is possible that if I had read these books when I felt 100%, I might have enjoyed them even more.
Other than the Dali/Jim novella, Magic Dreams, the Kate Daniels books I’ve read so far weren’t quite as awesome for me as On the Edge, Burn for Me, and perhaps even Bayou Moon. Part of it is that it feels like there is less focus on the romance in this series, and part of it is that so far at least, I prefer couples like Rose/Declan, Jim/Dali, Nevada/Rogan, and William/Cerise to Kate/Curran. Kate is great on her own and she and Curran are even good for each other, but they’re a little mainstream for my tastes, and I like Andrews’ quirkier couples better. I also love it when the Andrews focus on family dynamics but there’s a little less of that here so far.
Having said that, I love how badass Kate is, in a way that women often aren’t in genre fiction. So many times I see readers talking about how tough a female character is, and then when I read the book I’m less impressed. Kate really is a fighter who doesn’t quit and I appreciate that so much.