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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

“Magic Slays” by Ilona Andrews w/Bonus Review of “Magic Dreams” (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “Magic SlaysHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Bites” & “Magic Burns
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Strikes” & “Magic Mourns
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Bleeds” & “A Questionable Client
Read FBC’s Interview with Ilona Andrews

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for the husband-and-wife writing team of Ilona Gordon & Andrew Gordon. Together, Andrew and Ilona are the co-authors of the New York Times bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series and the romantic urban fantasy novels of The Edge.

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

Kate 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 Ghastek, 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 with their deaths…

FORMAT/INFO: Magic Slays is 308 pages long divided over a prologue, twenty-three chapters, and an epilogue. Like the previous books, narration is in the first-person, exclusively via Kate Daniels. Magic Slays has a self-contained plot, but is the fifth volume in the series. Readers who jump in with this book can reasonably understand what is going on, but there are many references to people and events from the previous volumes which can cause confusion, so it’s advisable to start from the beginning of the series.

May 31, 2011 marked the North American Mass Market Paperback publication of "Magic Slays" via Ace Books. Cover art provided by Chad Michael Ward.

ANALYSIS: Last year’s release, Magic Bleeds, was a terrific book, really setting the stage for exciting developments for Kate, Curran and the rest of the denizens of Atlanta. As a result, it was a long wait for Magic Slays, which came with a huge amount of anticipation and promise.

Set three months after the events of Magic Bleeds, Kate is now mated to Curran—the Beast Lord—and is the female alpha of the Pack by extension. Due to previous events, Kate is also no longer a part of the Order of the Merciful Aid, and has struck out on her own as a private investigator. Unfortunately, she has had issues finding clients because of her previous employers. That is, until Kate receives a call from Ghastek about a loose vampire, which leads to another job involving a missing object. Thus begins the plot of Magic Slays, which pits Kate against an order of people determined to reclaim Atlanta and the rest of the world from those they deem inhuman. Kate will also reunite with someone from the previous books; adjust to being the mate of the leader of the Pack; discover strange ties to a fan favorite character from her past who also happens to be on Curran’s shit list; and deal with her unhappy niece Julie.

Thematically, Magic Slays explores what happens when two people who have been struggling with the world and themselves, are finally together. How do they deal with each other and the world? This question is magnified when the couple is Kate & Curran; both headstrong and opinionated individuals. Kate because of the way she was brought up by her guardian Voron, and Curran because of his status as the Beast Lord. Even though they seem to be polar opposites, Kate & Curran possess a strong bond that is strengthened by their love for one another. A bond that was tested in the last book, and will be tested even further in Magic Slays.

Family is another strong theme in the book, with many characters placed in situations due to familial conundrums. In particular, we get to learn more about Kate’s parents—information which might become crucial in the fight ahead. Additionally, readers are reacquainted with characters who have taken a backseat in the previous volumes, while subplots like the Midnight Palace fiasco and the appearance of Patriarchal relatives in Atlanta are further developed. There are also certain instances where Kate’s obligations get in her way, which was fun to read about and demonstrated character growth since she had to learn how to handle responsibility. The authors also continue to tie their short fiction with their novels. In this case, we get to see more of the mythos from the short story, “A Questionable Client”. Finally, there’s the climax which unleashes a pivotal event in the series and would be cool to see from Curran’s POV in the future. Throughout all of this, the authors do their best to subvert reader expectations and surprise them with new plot directions.

Negatively, I didn’t have anything to criticize about in this volume. In the past, predictability was an issue, but Magic Slays constantly surprises with its numerous plot twists, and I’m really looking forward to the direction the series is taking with only two more books to go until the finale. In short, the authors have really improved their craft since Magic Bites, and with each book, they just get better and better...

CONCLUSION: Magic Slays is not only another standout volume in the Kate Daniels series, but it is also a book that will slay reader expectations, while leaving longtime fans anxiously awaiting the sixth entry in Ilona Andrews magical saga...

BONUS REVIEW — “Magic Dreams”:

Order “HexedHERE
Read An Excerpt from “Magic DreamsHERE

In addition to Magic Slays, 2011 also sees the release of a new novella from Ilona Andrews called “Magic Dreams”, which is featured in the Hexed anthology and includes contributions  from Yasmine Galenorn, Allyson James and Jeanne C. Stein. “Magic Dreams” focuses on Jim and Dali, who are both from the Cat clan. Jim is the alpha and the head of security for the Pack, while Dali is a white were-tigress who was last seen in Magic Strikes. “Magic Dreams” is sixty-eight pages long and is narrated entirely by Dali Harimau.

The novella is set a few weeks after the climax of Magic Bleeds and does not contain any spoilers for Magic Slays. The story begins with Jim visiting Dali—who is an expert of all things magical as was revealed in Magic Strikes—because he cannot remember what happened when he was investigating a certain mishap at a northwestern office. Figuring out what is happening at this office, and how Dali helps Jim, is the crux of the story.

Ilona Andrews has a rather crucial sense of what works and what doesn’t, and choosing to focus on Dali—a minor, but fascinating character from Magic Strikes who shines because of her quirkiness and vulnerability—was a great decision. Throw in intriguing Indonesian and Japanese mythologies, a rather funny side to a mother-daughter bond, and top-notch writing, and it’s no wonder that “Magic Dreams” is my favorite Kate Daniels-related short story so far.

All in all, “Magic Dreams” is another worthy addition to the Kate Daniels universe, and I hope the authors consider writing more stories about Dali as I for one would love to read more about the white were-tigress in a central role...

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