Magic Slays

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 5

Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 308
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Plagued by a war between magic and technology, Atlanta has never been so deadly. Good thing Kate Daniels is on the job.

Kate Daniels may have quit the Order of Merciful Aid, but she’s still knee-deep in paranormal problems. Or she would be if she could get someone to hire her. Starting her own business has been more challenging than she thought it would be—now that the Order is disparaging her good name, and many potential clients are afraid of getting on the bad side of the Beast Lord, who just happens to be Kate’s mate.

So when Atlanta’s premier Master of the Dead calls to ask for help with a vampire on the loose, Kate leaps at the chance of some paying work. Turns out this is not an isolated incident, and Kate needs to get to the bottom of it—fast, or the city and everyone dear to her might pay the ultimate price . . .

* * *

We experienced heavy rains last weekend, which got me stuck at home with no Internet to boot. Having no Internet is not fun, but my annoyance was alleviated with the fact that I had good books waiting for me on my shelf. So, instead of being frustrated at our non connection, I decided to sink back on the cold, cold sheets, and plunge into the world of Ilona Andrews in the fifth installment in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Slays.

Spoiler warning: Inevitable spoilers for the first four books in the series in this review.

In Magic Slays, Kate is no longer working for the Order and she is also no longer living in her old apartment. After a particularly big fight with her seemingly immortal now dead Aunt Erra, she has not only quit the Order, but started her own independent paranormal clean-up business, Cutting Edge. But wait, there’s more! She has no house to speak of because she now lives in the Pack’s Keep, because she’s mated to the Pack’s alpha, Beast Lord Curran. After all the tension in the past four books, Kate and Curran had finally admitted their feelings to one another. Even so, Kate still insists on doing things on her own, worried that her past would catch up with her and kill everyone she loves. However, business for Cutting Edge is kind of bad, until the People asks Kate for help to secure a loose vampire. Things go south quickly and soon Kate is faced with a more serious mission that could wipe away the magic community of Atlanta in a snap.

It’s been almost a year since I last read Magic Bleeds, and I was kind of worried that I would be a bit lost when I started reading the newest book. I considered rereading the fourth for a while, but sheer laziness told me I can just try to Google if I can’t remember. (Then I remembered I had no Internet after that, haha) But I was glad that it didn’t take me long to sink back into Kate’s world. The magical Atlanta is still as vivid as ever, and I felt like I never left at all. The characters were quite easy to remember, too, and I was very glad to see so many familiar faces again — Dr. Doolittle, Julie, Aunt B, Derek, Andrea and Grendel the attack poodle! I loved how every character had their role, and they all fit neatly into the world that the authors built.

I also really liked how the authors really do their mythology research in every book in this series. I was one of those people who concentrated on Greek and Roman mythology when I was younger, so discovering other myths is always a treat. I liked the Russian element in this story, and it’s worth to mention that despite the gloom and doom prediction of the story, they always manage to insert crazy funny things, such as the volhvs and the witches. That truly cracked me up. More magical communities were brought in the story, too, and it made for an awesome (albeit short) showdown at the end. See, this is how you bring in the troops to fight a common enemy — you build it up really good and end with with an actual fight, not just a conversation and the main character casting an unbreakable shield around everyone (yes, Breaking Dawn, I’m looking at you).

Kate and Curran’s relationship were also nicely done here, and I really like how the authors treat it. It’s never going to be always rainbows and butterflies for both of them, but their relationship is very fun to read because it’s grounded. It’s healthy, despite it being a bit violent, and it never really takes center stage so much that it becomes the main point of the story. It’s just there, and it’s a part of Kate and it gives so much to her character development.

The book’s conclusion is also nicely done, and I am truly, truly excited for the next book. Kate’s past life is slowly unraveling, and I can’t help but wonder what she will do next in order to fulfill the “mission” she has grown up believing in. Magic Slays is a solid installment in this already awesome series. I never expected anything less, really, and I bet it can only go better from here.

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook

Reviews for other Kate Daniels books:
#1 Magic Bites
#2 Magic Burns
#3 Magic Strikes
#4 Magic Bleeds

On the Edge

On the Edge by Ilona AndrewsOn the Edge by Ilona Andrews
The Edge # 1

Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 309
My copy: paperback, won from Dee’s 100+ follower giveaway

The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale.

The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.

* * *

I pretty much became a squealing fan of Ilona Andrews after I finished the first four books of their Kate Daniels series. Who wouldn’t? By the time I finished the fourth book, there was a long lull before the fifth book comes out but I wanted more Ilona Andrews. Good thing they also had another series going set in an entirely different world and I won the first two books of that series in a giveaway, so I had more Ilona Andrews in stock. Of course, I took my own sweet time before reading it…but that’s really expected of me.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the land between the magical Weird and the normal Broken. She lives and is fiercely protective with her two younger brothers, necromancer Georgie and changeling Jack. Rose is somewhat of a social pariah among the Edge because of her unusual power: the ability to flash white, something that no Edger has ever done. This has made her a target for bluebloods from the Weird, if not as a wife to produce white-flashing powerful babies, but for slave merchants to sell to the highest bid. It’s no surprise that Rose is closed off to anyone, and it doesn’t help that her family is also very poor that she can’t afford many of the luxuries in life, including motor home repair. Rose works in the Broken everyday to make ends meet, so she’s very determined to keep her routine and live her life inconspicuously. Then comes Declan Camarine, an Earl from the Weird, who is intent at having her. Rose is not about to let anyone get her and leave her brothers behind. When weird things start showing up in the Edge and threatens everyone she knows, she had to team up with Declan to find a way to destroy it and keep the Edge safe.

On the Edge is very different from the Kate Daniels series. It’s more romance than urban fantasy, but the world is grittier and somewhat more primitive than what Kate lives in. By primitive, I don’t mean it’s less powerful, but just different. Most of the magic discussed in this book was elemental, back to the basics, unlike in Kate where there is more of the weird and seemingly more complex magic all around. Not that I know much, of course, but this one had a different feel from the other, which I kind of had to get used to first before I fully immersed.

But as always, the world building in this book is flawless. That’s one of the many things I admire with Ilona Andrews novels — the world seemed so real with all its quirks and intricate rules and details. Even if everything is highly unbelievable, I couldn’t help but accept that what was written in the book was real, and that the world is divided in three. This alone could make the book a pleasure to read already, and I think that’s really want I’m looking for in fantasy novels: good world building. I know I can’t write a good fantasy world (not yet, anyway), so I’ll stick to reading them instead.

And like with Kate, Rose is also as fierce as her. I liked Rose because of her strong attachment to her family. Sometimes she gets too attached, but as the story went on, she grew to understand that she can’t baby her brothers all the time. Rose is strong and admirable, and it makes one understand why Declan would like her. I like Declan too, but I did get kind of annoyed at how many times he was described as “perfect” in the book. Too many mentions of his well-defined muscles, glittery eyes and skin is a bit too much. My favorite characters in the book, however, are Jack and Georgie — gotta love those two boys. They captured my heart from the start. I also liked Declan’s family, but too bad they didn’t have much exposure time.

Since this is more of a romance novel, there was more focus on the relationship than in the action in the book, so the climax part was kind of expected. I wasn’t as invested in Rose and Declan’s relationship as I was in Kate and Curran, but the latter had more build up than this one, so I guess that’s a normal reaction. I guess the key here is to really stop comparing from the other series because they fall on sort of different sub-genres.

On the Edge is a good, fun and sizzling (yes, I actually used that term) fantasy/romance novel from Ilona Andrews, and it’s a good read whether you’re new to them or you’re a fan. While I’m not about to declare my love for this series yet, I am looking forward to read the other books about The Edge. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

Other Reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Book Harbinger
Attack of the Book

Fairy Dust and Warlocks

To Kill a Warlock by HP MalloryTo Kill a Warlock (Dulcie O’Neil # 1) by HP Mallory
(Dulcie O’Neil # 1)
Indie, 208 pages

The murder of a dark arts warlock. A shape-shifting, ravenous creature on the loose. A devilishly handsome stranger sent to investigate. Sometimes working law enforcement for the Netherworld is a real bitch. Dulcie O’Neil is a fairy. And not the type to frolic in gardens. She’s a Regulator—a law-enforcement agent who monitors the creatures of the Netherworld to keep them from wreaking havoc in the mortal world. When a warlock is murdered and Dulcie was the last person to see him alive, she must uncover the truth before she’s either deported back to the Netherworld, or she becomes the next victim. Enter Knight Vander, a sinfully attractive investigator sent from the Netherworld to work the case with Dulcie. Between battling her attraction to her self-appointed partner, keeping a sadomasochistic demon in check, and fending off the advances of a sexy and powerful vampire, Dulcie’s got her hands full. As the body count increases, Dulcie finds herself battling dark magic, reconnoitering in S&M clubs and suffering the greatest of all betrayals.

I’m still fairly new to the urban fantasy genre, and I am still avoiding paranormal romance (maybe I should make a post about that sometime) so when I received a review request from HP Mallory for her books, I was kind of hesitant to accept it. But I’m not really one to say no to free books, so I thought, why not?

I finally found the time to read To Kill a Warlock when we started moving a week ago. I figured after reading about zombies, I need to take a break from the gore so this should be  a perfect read. And since we were moving, all my books were packed, so all the reading I could do was in my Kindle.

So Dulcie is a fairy and one of the best Regulators from the Association of Netherworld Creatures (ANC) in California. As a Regulator, she monitors the activities of the different paranormal creatures in her area and makes sure they act in accordance to the laws. But after her Regulator job is finished, Dulcie hides in her house and works on her novel, which she hoped to published so she can be rid of her Regulator job. Her more or less regular Regulator (ha, sorry, I can’t resist!) job is disturbed when a warlock dies and she was the last one who saw him. The story follows Dulcie as she tries to figure out who killed the warlock, work on her novel and figure out her relationships with the different men in her life which included a vampire, a demon, an elf and a Loki.

To Kill a Warlock is generally a fun read, with a spunky heroine who’s had a broken heart and dreams of being a published writer. The story is pretty tight, with a good — although not really unique — concept about a group that regulates paranormal creatures among humans, and of course, lots of romance for Dulcie. That being said, however…I don’t think To Kill a Warlock really worked for me. :( I hate it when this happens, especially since it seemed like many readers liked the book and the characters (and that I got this book for review). I did not hate any of them, really, but they just failed to make an big impression on me that I just didn’t care about them as much as I normally would. As the story got to the climax, I found myself just flipping to the next pages, eager to finish because I was getting tired of how they seemed to be going in circles. When the major action has finished and everything has settled, I thought it was over, but it wasn’t…and it led me wondering, “What else could happen after all that?” I didn’t feel very satisfied at the ending because I felt like it was a bit of a cop out — everyone sort of at peace with each other, with Dulcie having three guys going after her. In the end I was just confused.

It’s not that it’s a bad book. I have to give some merit to the author because I enjoyed myself in some parts of the book, but as a whole, I was underwhelmed. I think I can put the blame on Ilona Andrews and their Kate Daniels series with how I viewed To Kill a Warlock. The Kate Daniels series is my first time to read adult urban fantasy and I loved every bit of it, so I got kind of spoiled with their world building and character development in those books. So much so that my expectations were a bit too high when I read To Kill a Warlock. Perhaps if I read this first before any of the Kate Daniels books, I’d think otherwise.

Rating: [rating=2]
→ I was pretty much underwhelmed with To Kill a Warlock. It’s a good urban fantasy novel, but it just didn’t work so much for me.

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 94 out of 100 for 2010

My copy: ebook, review copy from author

Cover image & Blurb: Goodreads

Other Reviews:
ALPHA reader

Magic Strikes

Magic Strikes by Kate Daniels
Kate Daniels # 3
Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 310
My copy: paperback, bought from PowerBooks

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet. As her investigation leads her to the Midnight Games—an invitation only, no holds barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament—she and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community…

* * *

Everyone I know online and offline who recommends this series has said this already so my saying this doesn’t really have that much bearing but I have to say this: Magic Strikes is the book in the Kate Daniels series. If at Magic Bites and Magic Burns, I only liked and really liked this series, Magic Strikes is the book that made me love it, love Kate and everything else in her fantastic universe.

In Magic Strikes, we finally learn more about Kate, her past and her mission. I love that there wasn’t a big dramatic reveal to it, really, but it was written like Kate has decided to trust the reader and tell (almost?) everything. We see Kate growing from the lone warrior to a part of a team, from someone who’d rather not have any attachments to someone who’d die just to make sure all the people she cares for is safe. There’s so much character growth for Kate in this book that it’s impossible not not to love her even more, and to want to be as awesome as she is especially when she starts kicking butt.

It was also really fun to get to know the secondary characters — from Jim, Kate’s old partner to Andrea, her new best friend and all the way to the Pack’s medmage Dr. Doolittle (whose animal counterpart is so cute and fitting :) ). Their relationships and dynamics with one another was also fun to read, particularly the shapeshifters, making them not just a simple pack, but almost like a family. Ilona Andrews knows how to make the supporting characters shine, putting spotlight on them in the right times and giving them little quirks that make them feel real despite their magical abilities.

It’s really hard to point out what I really loved about this book because there were so many awesome things about it, but if I were to choose, I’d go with the reason that made me end this book with a huge silly smile on my face: all the Kate and Curran moments. ♥ Ah, I can’t remember the last time I was this invested on a fictional (non) couple. Kate and Curran’s banter is not just funny but also sweet and yes, sexy. “Baby.” I never thought I’d like reading that pet name, ever, until Curran said it. :P

I know most of this review is just squee-ing, but there’s just so much to squee about in Magic Strikes. I love it, and I love this series, and I’m very, very happy that I splurged on these books because it was absolutely worth it. I’m so glad I don’t have to wait too long to read the fourth book, Magic Bleeds. In fact, I’m reading it now. :)

Rating: [rating=5]

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Janicu’s Book Blog
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers

Magic Bites

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 1
Publisher: Ace Books

Number of pages: 260
My copy: paperback, bought from PowerBooks

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t have it any other way…

* * *

When I first started reading fantasy by choice, I know I wouldn’t be really interested in any hardcore fantasy novels, like Tolkien or anything similar. I remember saying that my brain can’t possibly process and visualize all the foreign worlds and creatures and such. When I came across Cassandra Clare‘s The Mortal Instruments series, I knew I liked that kind of fantasy — the one still set in the real world yet has fantastical elements. Hello urban fantasy.

I was all set to read more urban fantasy after that, but alas, I fell into YA paranormal and eventually dystopia. I never really thought of actively looking for urban fantasy because of the plethora of books in my TBR pile, plus I wasn’t really sure where to start.

And now I take this time to thank Chachic and Michelle for pushing me in the right direction with Ilona AndrewsKate Daniels series. I’ve told the story of how I got the books here, but if you’re too lazy to click over and come back, here’s the gist: we were book shopping, Chachic showed us the first book, told us all four books were available. I looked at them, listened to the two girls tell me how awesome the series was, and quickly folded, buying all four books in the series at once and starting Magic Bites that night.

And friends, I got hooked.

If you’re planning to read this book, I suggest you read and try to understand the description at the back as much as you can because there are no explanations offered at the start. I was immediately dropped into Kate’s world like that. There were no careful explanations or introductions; I found myself reading about Kate was sitting at her kitchen when magic “fell” and there was suddenly a vampire. All that happened before I could say “What?” and so I had to slow down with reading to really get what was happening. It was kind of disorienting at first, so if you’re not too used to fantasy this may present a little problem.

But don’t give up on it! You will get used to it, and like me, you’ll marvel at the world building that the authors* did in this book. Kate’s world is very believable despite all the magical tendencies, and after some time, I got used to how their world works. As always, there were the vampires and shapeshifters, but they’re not the sparkly vampires or the imprinting shapeshifters that is popular right now. I am very, very relieved to know that these creatures in Kate’s world are not like them, especially the vampires. The book may not have Dracula-like vampires, but they’re written as terrifying creatures. Finally something that made sense! I am overjoyed. :P

I can’t really decide what made this book awesome, but since I have three more books to review for this series, I can discuss the others in their reviews. :P For the first book, I am all praises for the protagonist, Kate. Kate is just…kick-ass. She’s snarky, sassy, tough yet underneath all that, still very feminine. It’s hard not to like her from the very start and love her as the story goes on. There’s an air of mystery around her, too, that made me want to continue reading just to know her past…but in the end, I still don’t know who (or what) she was. Even so, her personality wasn’t hidden so much that I didn’t get to know who she was and the lengths she would go to get what she wants as the story happens. Kate reminds me of one of my favorite heroines of all time, Thursday Next: they’re both very smart and strong female characters, ones that I would love to be if I were made into a book character. :)

Of course I know I haven’t really said much about this book after all that I’ve written in this review. This is a very solid debut from Ilona Andrews. It’s dark, with lots of mystery and action (oh yes, a bit of gore, too), but still with enough snark and sass that I chuckled every now and then. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start for a series that I immediately grabbed the second book just to be immersed in Kate Daniels’ world.

Once again, thanks to Chachic and Michelle for pushing this one! I can’t wait to find out more about Kate (and Curran! :P) in the next books. :)

* Ilona Andrews is actually the pen name of the husband-wife writer tandem of Ilona and Andrew Gordon. Awesome, yes?

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Janicu’s Book Blog
Book Harbinger