Review: “Magic Strikes,” Ilona Andrews

Pros: Great arc-plot advancement; plenty of danger
Cons:
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

 

I read book six of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, Magic Rises, first and absolutely loved it–enough so that I went back to read the rest of the series. The first book, Magic Bites, had a narration that started off clunky and overwrought. By the end of the book, however, the style had smoothed out and the plot had sucked me in. Next came Magic Burns, a fascinating installment that left Kate responsible for an unusual young woman. Now, in Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels) (book three), Kate is truly coming into her own. Even the Beast Lord, Curran, will need to listen to Kate if he wants to deal with a vicious enemy of the Pack.

 

[W]hen 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 Beast Lord, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community…

It’s both entertaining and nerve-wracking to watch Kate try to stay one step ahead of Curran. His own people are brushing him off, but only because they feel they need to keep him from something terrible. Curran gives his wayward shifters three days to come back into the fold, and they’re determined to have everything taken care of by then. Once Kate finds out what they’re doing, she decides to help. Of course, Curran is awfully difficult to throw off the scent, leaving only the question: will he interfere, or help? Partly that question depends on the back-and-forth, oddly-evolving relationship between Curran and Kate. He seems to care only about seducing her, but his actions indicate that there may be more to what he wants. She’s becoming highly attracted to him, but she doesn’t want to be yet another one of his conquests. She’s only barely getting used to having friends and allies; she isn’t sure how to handle much more than that.

Speaking of being unused to having friends, that’s part of how Kate gets herself into this mess. She cares very much about Derek, a young werewolf who’s accompanied her on a number of escapades, and when she finds out he’s dying she can’t stay out of the whole giant mess he’s wrapped up in. Leave it to her to find out about a greater conspiracy going on, one that even connects to her father in odd ways. She’s getting closer and closer to revealing herself to all the wrong people, but she isn’t willing to leave her friends to die just so she can go back into hiding.

I gave him a smile. I was aiming for sweet, but he turned a shade paler and scooted a bit farther from me. Note to self: work more on sweet and less on psycho-killer.

All of this character growth is part of what makes the Kate Daniels series so worthwhile. Kate still has a big mouth, but she doesn’t act as rashly, doesn’t speak without thinking, nearly as much any more. She’s still hugely stubborn, but she’s learning to compromise in order to care for those she loves.

We get to learn a lot more about some of the side characters as well. Jim gets pushed a bit too far and goes a little over the edge. Derek’s life gets turned upside-down. Julie is trying to fit in at a normal school, with mixed results. Andrea and Raphael are developing an odd relationship as Andrea feels her way through becoming a part of the Hyena pack. We learn a whole lot more about what Saiman is underneath his oft-changing form. As for Curran–we get to see the ways in which he’s willing to bend and flex in order to achieve a worthy goal. We’re also starting to get that there’s a division between his easy, breezy attempts to seduce Kate, and some deeper feelings he seems unwilling to acknowledge just yet.

The story in Magic Strikes is strong, quick, well-paced. It drew me in and kept me on edge wanting to find out what would happen to everyone. It’s clever, with plenty of interesting magic and mythology to go around. All in all, it just makes me want to read the next couple of books even more.

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