REVIEW: Magic Slays + Giveaway

Ilona Andrews
Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels #5)
Ace
ISBN-10: 0441020429
ISBN-13: 978-0441020423
Urban fantasy
May 31, 2011

*possible spoilers for past books

Blurb via Goodreads:

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

Kate Daniels 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 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 . . .

Reviews for books 1 and 2, 3 and 4.

I really didn’t expect to get this one in the mail from the publisher, but you bet your favorite whatever that I snatched it up and started it ASAP. As in right away. It’s May, folks! That means it’s Kate Daniel’s time, that magical, most wonderful time of the year. It’s time for monster slayings, things decaying and toasty magical fires in which someone is screaming from within and snarling about the end of the world. And that is usually just half of Kate’s sort of day!

While I was all set to tuck into this book and be swept away be all the fighting, gore and sarcastic “charm” Kate’s so well-loved for (I write that with complete and total sincerity), I was surprised to find myself kind of, well, bored for the first several chapters. Somehow I’m betting that I’m the only reader who will have felt this way- but I felt this installment really needed some oomph in the beginning. It wasn’t necessarily a struggle to get into it, it was just not the kind of action I suppose I was expecting after what’s happened in previous installments. It really read more for me like a comfort read, but I still wished by page 90 for things to pick up and move at that pace this series usually does so well.

On one hand, it does make some sense that things are slow – Kate is trying to get her business off the ground, and it’s a little hard to get business, surprisingly, when you’re the mate of The Pack’s leader. But even when Kate has to deal with an un-navigated vampire that’s headed her way, I didn’t quite feel as engaged by this book as I have with past installments. Kate’s partnership with her good friend Andrea does help to liven up the dialogue – these two play so well off one another, and I was happy to see Andrea lending another female voice of amusement and strength into the mix. At times I felt like Andrea even surpasses the role of secondary character sidekick and became just as important a character as Kate – a position Kate manages to share well with her friend. When Andrea says at one point how she hit one of the Packs alpha’s, I knew this woman was destined to be a favorite of the series. Andrea’s situation with Aunt B isn’t necessarily funny, but the way Andrea is developing as a character sure is.

Andrea raised her hand. “This is the hand that slapped Aunt B.”

“Maybe you should have it gold-plated.”

“Here, you can touch it, since you’re my best friend.”

When the book finally felt to me as if it was getting somewhere, I also wanted to seriously question The Pack’s idea of parenting. Kate’s ward, Julie, is as much a dilemma as she ever was, still having trouble with her boarding school. I won’t say why exactly I had an issue with Kate’s idea of teaching Julie a lesson – it figures in too closely, eventually, to the main plot. I have to say, I was disappointed in Kate’s handling of the situation, from the moment they find out Julie ran away from school, but felt that things worked out in the end. Given all that, Julie has her own scene with a young bouda (hyena) shape shifter that was hilarious and signals, like Andrea’s performance does, that Julie could also be a force to reckon with one day. As Kate likes to muse on often enough, Julie’s a good kid. She adds a tenuous thread of family for Kate that grounds the main character in what would otherwise be nothing but a hell on wheels life. In that respect, someone like Julie becomes all the more precious, and so her role in this book is particularly heart-wrenching.

Speaking of heart-wrenching, we do find some more interesting details about Kate’s life and past. She begins to question, more than ever, what it is that ties people to her, including Curran. The series arc of what will happen with Kate’s larger than life father, Roland, hangs over everything Kate does and loves. Kate learns some details thanks to one of the local witches, Evdokia, that are eye-opening and hurtful, and my heart literally ached for Kate at that point, when she realizes too much of her past was a lie, that certain people she had believed in were nothing but fakes. It’s never an easy time for Kate, but one starts to wonder if it will ever be possible for at least something resembling contentment even.

While Kate is having to deal with earth-moving family revelations, she’s also searching out a doomsday device with the power to – well, it has power, we’ll just end the description there. It’s bad, it could mean the end of magic and that’s all I’ll say. Well, and that it’s being used by some seriously unhinged batshit crazy sickos who don’t care who they harm along the way. Just another day for Kate, right? Overall, I felt like once the details of Kate’s life come to light, and the installment main plot picked up in the details department, this book’s pace managed to snap into place.

While we’re talking about all the emotionally heart-wrenching things that take place in this one, we also can’t avoid – and why would we want to? – the situation of Kate and Curran. It took me a little while to realize it, but while Kate is now Curran’s mate, the romantic tension that made previous books so much fun, was missing this time, or it felt like it was. Given their status as mates, it’s a given that tension would be gone or just less, but since we’re going for full honesty here, mated Kate and Curran just aren’t as exciting to me as Will We or Won’t We Kate and Curran. I’ll never forget how it was on with Kate’s “Here, kitty kitty.” The chase was definitely fun with this couple, and that was repalced in this one with cozy tub scenes that fade to black and mid-relationship doubts.

That being said, there was also a time when Curran is so there for Kate that I could have tackle hugged the guy if he was real, when he reemphasizes for Kate how dedicated he is to her. OK, so there’s really more than one scene like that in the book, and it was these times when Curran’s actions detail exactly how much he loves Kate, that I felt more on board with them again. I don’t think it would be too spoilery for me to share the following snippet with no context, and folks who love how powerful Curran is, and ruthless, will love it:

The giant claws gouged the top of the van, and he ripped the metal sheet away, as if opening a can of sardines. The cross-bowman looked up in time to see the huge paw just before it cracked his skull like an egg. The enormous jaws of the leonine head opened and a deafening roar blasted forth in declaration of war, drowning even the noise of the enchanted engine. The beast dipped his massive head inside, pulled a kicking body out between his teeth, pinned it with his paws, and ripped the top half of the body off.

He had come for me again.

I unlocked the door. It swung open and he clenched me to him. I threw my arms around his neck and I kissed him, blood and fur and all.

Yeah – in some ways, Kate and Curran DO still have it in this installment. The important ways. There’s also a scene later where Curran says some unexpected things to Kate that pretty much seals Curran for me as awesome.

While it felt like it took a little longer for this one to come together, Magic Slays turned out to be just as entertaining a book as past installments in the end. And while it’s not my favorite of the series, it is certainly nothing to sneeze at in terms of the series arc. Andrews manages, as always, to tie everything in the one together beautifully, while also maintaining a steady eye on finishing up the series, of which there are two or so books left. And you will be able to feel the advancing heat on Kate’s heals from her father, a sense, more than ever, that Roland is coming and it’s not going to be pretty. The writing is as excellent as ever (the worldbuilding, the style and voice – blah blah you’ve heard that all before, it’s all still GOOD), with plenty of humor interjected to make the heavier moments a little easier to bear, if no less heartbreaking. Sometimes I worry that Kate is becoming too powerful, and too easily slipping into Mary Sue territory because of it. But then I think how physically hurt she gets in every book, and how she has literally been screwed over by family her whole life, and I can hardly begrudge a girl some raw, primal magical power to go forth and kick ass with. If anyone deserves it, it is certainly Kate Daniels.

Rating: Four Scoops

Series order:

  • Magic Bites
  • Magic Burns
  • Magic Strikes
  • Magic Bleeds
  • Magic Slays

Giveaway Time! Now Closed

The winners are:

Ren Puspita

Congratulations! And thank you, everyone, for stopping by!

I’ve not heard back from my U.S. winner after two tries to contact them, so I’m going to redraw from the U.S. entries as soon as I get a chance!

——————————————————————————

I’m giving away pre-orders of Magic Slays! Good thing it’s almost here, right?

1 copy for a U.S. winner and 1 for an international winner.

1. Leave any comment and also let me know if you’re U.S. or international.

2. International folks – MAKE SURE you’re on this list of countries Book Depository ships to for free, please. You need to be on that list to enter.

3. Contest ends on Friday, May 27 at noon, eastern U.S. time. I will contact the winners via email.

Good luck!

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