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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Magic Strikes" and "Magic Mourns" by Ilona Andrews (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Ilona Andrews Website
Order Magic Strikes HERE
Order Must Love Hellhounds (anthology containing Magic Mourns) HERE
Read an Excerpt from the Novel
Read an Excerpt from the Novella
Read FBC Review of Magic Bites and Magic Burns

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Ilona Andrews is the Pseudonym for the Husband-wife writing pair of Ilona Gordon & Andrew Gordon. They currently live in Oregon & have 2 series ongoing namely the dark urban Fantasy "Kate Daniels" series and the Paranormal romance "Edge" series.

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 310 pages divided over twenty-nine chapters with an epilogue. For all the books narration is in the first person and features Kate Daniels as the sole voice. For the most part, "Magic Strikes" is self-contained with the majority of subplots resolved by the end of the novel, but the book is the third volume in a planned series with the authors being contracted for seven books, which according to the authors will be enough to tell Kate's story.

May 31, 2009 marked the North American paperback publication of "Magic Strikes" via Ace Books.

ANALYSIS: Ilona Andrews has proven that they have gotten a sure thing with the Kate Daniels "Magic" series after the release of the 2nd book "Magic Bites". In Magic Strikes, we are reintroduced to Kate's world as her life is now much more comfortable financially due to her affiliation with the Order, her status with the Pack and the Beast Lord Curran seem to be on reasonably good terms as well.

With such smooth sailing Kate figures its only time before her past starts intruding on her present. She gets a call from Saiman who tells her that he has something important to her in his custody and it will be crucial that she recover it before he has to take precautionary measures. When she meets Saiman she realizes that he has Derek in his possession who was trying to get passes to the "Midnight Games" a series of supernatural gladiatorial games.

Once she absolves Derek of his intrusive mistake with Saiman, she has to partake to Saiman's request and also Derek's which puts her in a very awkward position. However she does manage to fulfill both and that leads to a pivotal encounter which leaves Derek savaged & thereby begins the dark journey for Kate into the Midnight games. This book utilizes many of the side characters who have had smaller roles so far such as Jim, Andrea, Dolittle, Ralph, etc & going with the trend of past books utilizes a mythology from a different country.

The villains so as to speak in this book are truly frightening and may be connected with Kate's past. The climactic battle and its ruminations trigger off many new things for Kate in her personal & professional life. Primarily being her relationship with the beast lord as Curran since his ascent to the title of Beast Lord, has forbade any pack member from ever participating in the games.

Thus with such an explosive set up Ilona Andrews begin the third magic book, the pace in this book is tremendous as the story zooms along and the reader is pulled into the plot. The mythological aspect used in this tale is a very clever one and hats off to the writers for utilizing this one. The writing and characterization is spot on in this book & the reader can see how the authors are getting comfortable with this set up & it just goes to show in their writing which is improving tremendously.

The interaction and banter with Kate and Curran is an ever present highlight however in this book the rest of the cast is also used prominently and we get a very action packed and character heavy book. Much of Kate's past is revealed in this book and it spurs on to a nice resolution and has a tantalizing hook set up for the 4th book. "Magic Bleeds".

What differentiates this series for me amidst the many urban fantasies is that the authors have taken care to substantiate their world in small but significant ways. Yes there are vampires and werewolves however the vampires aren't the Twilight kind, they are more akin to the actual legends and to add a twist in these stories are frequently controlled by necromancers[The People] who telepathically guide/control them. As for the werewolves they are a small set of Shapeshifters who form a massive Pack and who have seven animal clans [namely Wolf, Nimble, Rat, Hyena, Heavy, Cat & Jackal] to get a further idea about the pack and its internal workings check out the official author page.

With these minor but crucial differences and along with the Crumbling world setting, this series has become one of my favorites and to add to that the main protagonist Kate Daniels is shown to be smart, snarky & a whole lot of fun to read about. Since I discovered these books a few months ago, I had the pleasure of reading the first 4 back to back and now to lessen the wait for the fifth book, I'll also be reviewing the novellas associated with this series and here is the first one from an anthology released last year.


In "Magic Mourns", which is a 90-page novella in the anthology Hell Hounds, we get a POV from Andrea, Kate's friend as Kate is in the background due to the climax of Magic Strikes and Andrea gets to deal with the Order's problems as Kate's replacement. Andrea has not been able to get much outdoors action due to certain issues which were focused upon in Magic Burns [2nd Kate Daniels book]. She gets a call from out of town to investigate a three headed dog that seemed to be chasing a Pack animal.

She jumps onto this chance and on further investigation it turns out that the creature in question is none other than Ralph [the were-hyena who is smitten by Andrea]. The reason for him being chased has something to do with his mother Aunt B. the current Alpha for the Hyena clan & her mate. The tale then expounds as to what might be happening and why a certain three headed dog [whose mythological background you can easily guess] is hell bent upon his stay at a certain place.

This novella is set in the timeframe after the events of the third book and is a nice departure from Kate and we get to see more of Ralph & Andrea who seem to be another crazy couple in-the-making. The mythological aspect discussed in this tale is again a new one. The authors are doing a swell job of concocting their tales and utilizing different mythos to power their stories and yet developing links to enmesh them cohesively as a part of this series. This novella serves as a nice sidebar to the Magic series and preferably will have to be read before the 4th book "Magic Bleeds" as some characters and the tale's ending bears minor ramifications in the next Book. Overall an "A" effort and a story not to be missed by fans of Ilona Andrews.


Bastard said...

This will be a series that I will try soon, probably after I'm done with my next batch of Urban Fantasy. I'll be trying Andrews' On the Edge though in a couple of days, so I'll see how that goes.

The Reader said...

@ B.

I'll look forward to your thoughts on it. The EDGE series is more romance tinged than this series, though I haven't read it. I might give it a try in the upcoming months.


Bastard said...

I'll let you know about the romance aspect. Doing research it seems that even though there's the love interest angle, it is not a paranormal romance and that the cover really doesn't do justice for the content of the book. But we'll see, seems interesting.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to read this series and I've had probably about seven people tell me that I must read it, even though I have reservations regarding UF. I really should get on it. Good review... it made me want to move this book up on my TBR list.

Kelly L. said...

It really is one of the best UF series going, and my personal favorite.

The Reader said...

@ Sarah

Thanks, this series is funny and interesting so if you haven't tried any UF at all, this could be a good beginning.


Nayan said...

Based on Mihir's recommendation I read the first 3 books in this series and really liked them..there is a good underlying plot to the entire series...


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