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Friday, July 12, 2013

Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews (Reviewed by Lydia Roberts and Mihir Wanchoo)

Order Magic Rises HERE
Read the first two chapters HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Magic Bites” & “Magic Burns
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Magic Strikes” & “Magic Mourns
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Magic Bleeds” & “A Questionable Client
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Magic Slays” & “Magic Dreams
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of "Retribution Clause" & "Magic Tests"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Gunmetal Magic" & "Magic Gifts"
Read Fantasy Book Critic’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 andIlona are the co-authors of the New York Times bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series and the romantic urban fantasy novels of The Edge. They live in Texas with their children.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord havew asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap… 

FORMAT/INFO: Magic Rises is 368 pages long divided over fifteen chapters, and an epilogue. In this book, narration is in the first-person, exclusively via Kate Daniels. There's also a short story included; "An Ill-Advised Rescue" which serves as a prequel to the events of this book. Magic Rises has a self-contained plot but features many characters and plot arcs from previous books therefore it would  very inadvisable to jump in to the series from this point.

July 30, 2013 marks the North American Mass Market Paperback publication of Magic Rises via Ace Books. Cover art provided by Juliana Kolesova.

ANALYSIS (Lydia): In the beginning of this installment in the Kate Daniels series, we get a glimpse of routine life at the Keep, as Kate practices sparring with her ward, Julie. I have not yet read the short story featuring Julie (Magic Tests), so it was refreshing to see her healed from the traumatic events of Magic Slays and behaving like a “normal” teen. The calm does not last long, though, as cries for help lead Kate and Julie to the infirmary where both Julie’s best friend and her sister are fighting the physical and mental madness of going loup.

In general, weres in the Kate Daniels world either follow the Code, a strict system of living that allows them to embrace their animal sides in a controlled manner, never letting go of their humanity, or they turn loup, rampage violently and go cannibalistic. Because of the danger, weres who go loup are killed. Unfortunately, there are certain times when weres don’t have a choice whether or not they go loup: at birth (if naturally born to the condition), after being turned into a were through a bite, or during puberty. The body’s systems go haywire at these times, and it is chance, not a matter of control, that determines which way things will go. There is no certain cure once a were goes completely loup, but there is a remedy called panacea that works 50% of the time. It is prohibitively expensive and extremely difficult to obtain because the makers guard their secrets for profit reasons. As a result, numerous young weres die every year, and this grim fact weighs heavily on all members of the Pack, especially its leaders.

When Kate’s significant other, Curran, the Beast Lord of the largest pack in the US, is asked to moderate a dispute between three European packs, the payment offered is a stockpile of panacea. Even though Kate and Curran are both certain that the request is a trap of some kind, they cannot rebuff the chance to save so many lives. They obtain a ship from a somewhat surprising source, gather a formidable team to accompany them (including familiar faces such as Andrea, Raphael, Aunt B, Derek, and not-so-familiar ones, as well, like the werebuffalo, Eduardo, and Jim’s sister, Keira), and head off to face who knows what.

It doesn’t take long before they have to deal with strange and unexpected obstacles, like assassin weredolphins (which is something that only Ilona Andrews could make believable)! However, physical confrontations – while present - take the backseat to the emotional turmoil that Kate faces throughout this book. As the only human in their delegation and one of few at the stronghold where they are housed with the other packs, she is less than a misfit; she is virtually nothing in the eyes of those she encounters. No one hesitates to express their disdain, or the fact that she is less than an optimal mate for the Beast Lord. Also, while Curran is immersed in politics and power struggles, she has the task of protecting a very pregnant, and high-strung werewolf named Desandra, and this keeps her quite busy. Kate has to persevere through several vicious attempts on Desandra’s life, figure out who and what is responsible for the attacks, and deal with the looming threat of their outwardly benevolent host. Kate and Curran have few opportunities to communicate, and Kate is left to wonder if either they or their relationship will survive. 

While I could not put it down once I started, this book is a tad bit stressful because of both the physical and emotional dangers they faced throughout the story. While I was somewhat prepared for it based on blog posts made by the authors as they wrote and edited the book, it did not make it any easier. Similar to the description of a favorite character as being more “grim,” this tale definitely lacks some of the levity included in other books. It seems that the light-hearted or funny moments feature new characters, mostly, and for me, that further highlights the low points for the characters I already love in this series. The introduction and addition of new characters to their entourage will be interesting, and has likely been done to augment the spin-off that is coming in the future.

I see the necessity in all (or most) of what happens in this book, as the groundwork for the upcoming battle with the big bad of this series, Roland, is evident. Also, I feel like this is a book that I will probably enjoy more when I re-read it, since I already know the outcome. If you are a Kate Daniels fan already, this book absolutely should not be missed. If not, read the first book! You’ll be hooked long before you get to this one!

ANALYSIS (Mihir): Magic Rises is the sixth book of the Kate Daniels series and previously was going to be the penultimate volume of the series. However earlier this year the authors posted about the need for going beyond their seven book series plan and thus with the accord of their editor and publishers, the new plan is to have the KD series run for a total of ten books. I for one was extremely glad to hear of it as when I had read the earlier draft of this book, I was worried as to how the story would end in seven books. But now I think we are in for a great ride.

Magic Rises also contains the short story An Ill-Advised Rescue and it's very pertinent that readers read that story before starting Magic Rises. The reason being it fills in a crucial background plot and explains some of the happenings in this book. My thoughts on it can be read over here. As Lydia recounted extensively, the story takes Kate and company beyond their shores all the way across the Atlantic. This was a good way to give a different feel to the story after the last 6 books that have been set in Atlanta and have explored several fascinating aspects about it. With this book the authors showcase their skills in the Eastern European front and we get a bit more fun this side of the trans-Atlantic divide. As with all the previous books, characterization remains a strong suit for Ilona Andrews as after Andrea’s turn at the POV helm we are back to Kate who remains smart, strong and deadly all the same. This time around the side character cast is widened beyond the regular folks and we get introduced to a couple of new characters as well as a few other ones get more face time. People have talked about how this might be in line for the sequel/spin-off reasons, whatever those reasons might be, its quite fun for the readers.

In regards to the big bad villain of this book, the identity is a bit of a surprise though looking back, there are quite a few hints laced in the previous books. Kudos to the author for making the villain much more than a one-dimensional mouth piece and now it remains to be seen how far the consequences go for Kate and Curran. There are quite a few things revealed about Roland’s past and the whole magic coming back scenario. As a fan of the series I loved how the authors are hinting at the bigger picture while keeping the narrative tightly focussed on a few characters. Series readers will pick up some more clues in regards to Roland and what truly is out there. The action sequences as always do not disappoint and again a hat tip to the author for further indulging their were-creature classification to bring out new deadlier stuff. All in all I can safely say that this book hits all the right spots for returning readers and preps up the sequel volume nicely as there a few deaths and status quo changes that will have far-reaching consequences down the line.

Although to be fair, the book does have a few things that are left unexplained and this can cause some consternation amid series fans. For the latter half of the book, the authors incorporate quite a few new elements but adequate information (about them) isn't revealed entirely. Another part that I thought could have helped was a POV from Curran in the latter half of this book. As there are many events happening when Kate isn't around and we get to hear what happened from others later on. In this regard a Curran POV and especially in the climax would have made this book that much more solid. Lastly there’s the ending which will be spot on for some and not so bright for others.  The reason for this is that while there are events of both good and sad tidings, people might not like how it's all tied up together. All in all this is a book with some great ideas and equally good execution that makes it one of the better volumes of the series so far.

CONCLUSION: Magic Rises is a good book and while it's not in the same league as Magic Strikes or Magic Bleeds. It's a book that heralds an epic upcoming confrontation and perhaps even more horrific aftermath to follow.  Give it a read to know why Ilona Andrews are one of the best author duos around and why the Kate Daniels series will be hailed a future urban fantasy classic!


Casey said...

Thanks for the review, and the reminder about the short stories! Looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to this one =).

The Reader said...

Thanks for your kind comments Casey, this one was a fun read.



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