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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Retribution Clause and Magic Tests (Kate Daniels Short Stories) by Ilona Andrews (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

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 Review of Magic Slays & Magic Dreams
Read FBC's Interview with Ilona Andrews
Order Hex Appeal HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The title of this review post is a bit of a misnomer; ironically neither of these stories feature Kate as the protagonist. However they are set in the Kate Daniels universe and since the authors haven’t conveniently titled the series yet, I’m going to call it that. There might be minor spoilers discussed in the reviews below as the stories occur at different time-periods in the overall saga, however I’ll try to keep them to a bare minimum.

The first short story is called “Retribution Clause” and is featured in the Hex Appeal short story collection by P. N. Elrod released on June 5, 2012. It is set in Philadelphia and features Adam Talford and Siroun as the narrative voices. The timeline for this story is a bit hazy in regards to the main books as no references are made to the events happening in Atlanta, however a crucial line in the story places it fifty years after Magic first returned to this world. Going by this official timeline this story is set in the year 2060 (50 years after Magic first returned in 2010) and thereby is occurring in the future of the Kate Daniels World as the fifth book is set in the first quarter of the year 2041.

The story is a dark one as befitting the title of the collection and is a great way to begin this collection. Adam is Saiman’s cousin and is a frost giant however is as different from Saiman as oil and water. Siroun is Adam’s partner and both of them work with POM insurance agency. Of course this being the Kate Daniels world, things are never what they seem or as simple as they sound. Adam and Siroun get a job that asks them to work on the retribution clause in a client’s policy. The clause being that in the case of the client’s death, the spouse has to be killed and this falls upon both of them to finish the task with the minimum number of casualties as the target is someone with a lot to lose. 

Once again the authors have pulled out an ace amid their  short story pack, as this is the first story to feature these two new intriguing characters and also the location is different from the usual Atlantan one. Adam is a character that will be interesting to know more about as he shares a crucial connection with one of the fan-favorite side character cast. His mannerisms and thoughts however are very different from Saiman and so to discover more about their common past & heritage will be super exciting. Siroun on the other hand is more dangerous than she appears and with tantalizing hints strewn about her past, it just begs for more stories about these two exciting characters in the future.

First and foremost the characterization is top notch as ever. The readers will instantly form a bond with the characters even thought they are reading about them for the first time. This is a gift of this author duo that they manage to write such great characters and this tale is another continuation of that fact. Secondly the story itself lends to a darker road and with enough hints provided about the duo’s background, readers will want more tales about Siroun and her past as well as how these two first encountered each other.  Among all the  short stories (set in the Kate Daniels Universe) released so far, this one is in my top three simply because of its awesome characters, darker plot-line and twisted ending. If you haven’t read Retribution Clause yet you can start with this excerpt.

Pre-Order An Apple For The Creature HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Magic Tests is the second short story to be released by Ilona Andrews this year and will be featured in An Apple for the Creature, an anthology edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner. This anthology will be released on September 4, 2012. This story is set after the fifth book Magic Slays and the focus is on Julie this time around. While many old time readers will know the problems Kate has experienced with Julie in particularly to her education, for the sake of new readers, I’ll not divulge more about it.

The plot of this story deals directly with that particular subplot of the series; in this case Julie is taken to a new place to be evaluated as well as to evaluate it in return. It turns out to be unlike any other facility she’s been in so far and that is also a crucial factor for her intrigue.

To add to it all, there’s also a case of a missing girl that draws Julie and she decides to emulate her aunt Kate and solve the mystery, gain a further understanding of the premises and perhaps figure out why Kate sent her there. The story unfolds slowly but with Julie as a narrator the reader will not be bored. This change of character and voice wasn’t such a surprising one but the plot line is definitely a good one. Julie as a character is fascinating in herself and combined that with the events of Magic Slays makes this story a potent combo to read. She’s very much inspired by Kate to become an investigator but from a totally different angle. She has Kate’s snappy dialogue streak in her but what she doesn’t have is those martial skills, however she more than makes it up with her street smarts.

This story reveals a lot about Julie and the way she thinks. For returning readers it also gives a fascinating insight into a character that we have read about so much and in turn we get crucial observations about Kate and Curran from her viewpoint. Another cool feature about this short story, is the mythology featured in it. The Authors along with Kevin Hearne are now the only two authors that I know or read about that use mythologies globally. This basically precludes their books from being stereotypical and at the same time gives them a broader canvas to plot their stories. Also this short story has a small tie-in with Magic Dreams as a character from that story makes an appearance here as well

Another excellent short story but one which the readers might need some background details, Magic Tests seems like a test run for a one-off book focused on Julie and if the story is any indication, then that one-off book might be very, very good indeed. Readers wanting to get a headstart on this tale can read the blurb and excerpt over here.



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