Title: Magic Strikes
Author: Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: April 2009
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 3 of the Kate Daniels series.
Why did I read this book: I liked Magic Bites (book 1), and loved Magic Burns (book 2). It goes without saying that I’d continue on with the adventures of Kate Daniels, especially as Ms. Andrews’s writing just gets better with each installment!
Summary: (from Ilona-Andrews.com)
Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.
But when 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 Lord of the Beasts, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community…
At the conclusion of Magic Burns, Kate Daniels no longer is a mere Mercenary Guild member – she’s become a fledgling member of the Knights of the Order of Merciful Aid as well as honorary Friend of the Pack. Instead of fighting off her involvement with the Order, Kate embraces her new job…even the bureaucratic mess and small peanuts errands it has her running. Things in post-Flare Atlanta are never so simple though, and soon Kate finds herself up to her neck in trouble once again. First, she stumbles upon a shapeshifter murder scene, that her former partner and werepanther Jim refuses to discuss with her – and what’s even curiouser is Kate’s discovery that Jim has been keeping the death a secret from pack leader Curran. Then Kate receives a call from the information-dealing, promiscuous magical shapechanger Saiman, who has caught her teenaged werewolf sidekick Derek breaking and entering in his swanky home. In exchange for Derek’s quiet release, Kate’s forced to go to the Midnight Games, a highly illegal and profitable Gladiator style tournament to the death, as Saiman’s date/bodyguard. Derek, unwilling to tell Kate why he was trying to steal Saiman’s tickets to the Games, makes her promise to give a girl on the Reapers fighting team a note from him. True to her word, Kate delivers Derek’s note without reading it first, but her trust comes at a terrible cost – she finds Derek near death, unable to heal himself or shapeshift, beaten beyond recognition with highly poisonous liquid electrum poured into the holes that were his chest and face. Jim is at the scene again, and Kate must work with him to save Derek and discover the true nature of the Reapers – and she has to do it all without Curran finding out.
I have to agree with Kmont, when she says that Magic Strikes is the best book in the Kate Daniels series to date. Ilona Andrews has a gift for writing action-packed, impeccably plotted books, and Magic Strikes is the best of the bunch. Just as Magic Burns was a significant improvement over Magic Bites, this third book takes the simmering character developments from the first two books and drastically ups the ante. Kate’s backstory, the reason for her need to burn her bandages to keep the extent of her magical skill imbued in her blood, is finally revealed – and it is every bit as fantastic a revelation as I had hoped for. Similarly, Kate and Curran’s volatile relationship is explored even more in this book, as his advances towards her in an attempt to make her his mate go to a whole new level (I’m certain this will please fans of the more romantic persuasion). One of the things I appreciate so much about this series and about Ms. Andrews’s writing, however, is that she does not rush anything – and this counts doubly in terms of Kate and Curran’s relationship. Though there is more contact between the two in this book, Kate is no fool. One of the reasons I love this heroine so much is because even though Curran is hot as hell, she realizes that becoming his mate will only leave her brokenhearted – in Kate Daniels’s universe, there’s no such contrived convenience as truemates or whatever.
I tried to put it into perspective. I had told him I’d never sleep with him. He told me I would. For him it was a game and he was simply trying to win. Someone once explained to me that if you lined up all of Curran’s former lovers, you could have a parade. He was sizing me up for another notch on his bedpost. If I gave in, I’d be a footnote in his procession of girlfriends: Kate Daniels, Investigator for the Order, whom his Furry Majesty had banged briefly until he got bored and moved on to bigger and better things, leaving her street cred in tatters.
An open relationship with Curran meant professional suicide. The agents of the Order were impartial by definition. Nobody would deal with me after I slept with the head of the shapeshifters. More important than that, when Curran lost interest in what I had to offer, he’d take my heart, smash it with a hammer into bloody mush, hand me the ruin, and walk away untroubled.
You gotta love that kind of candor and plain sense Kate puts into her thinking – this isn’t your average stupid UF heroine who will fall into bed with the guy that will totally ruin her career. And if she does, she’s full well of the risks and has weighed the consequences. I have to admit that when I first met Kate Daniels back in Magic Bites, I wasn’t immediately impressed. She was very run of the mill, a trashtalker without much to back it up, another one of the chicks in leather carrying a big sword with no real discernible qualities to separate her from the pack of other strangely bland badasses. But oh, how Kate has grown! Even in the first book, she softens and gains dimension, and now two installments later, she’s not only a bonafide badass, but she has a compelling backstory, snarky humor, and an actual brain to back it all up. My only problem in Magic Strikes so far as Kate is concerned is how she seems to have morphed from merely a very good mercenary fighter (with significant magic skills) to an unparalleled super warrior swordswoman (with the same significant magic skills). Not that I’m complaining – the action in this book was fantastic, Kate’s swordplay especially. It just seemed a drastic improvement in her physical prowess to me. Similarly, I love how instead of introducing myriad new characters, Ms. Andrews focuses on fleshing out those whom we’ve already met in earlier books. Derek, Jim, Saiman, Andrea, Raphael and even Julie make appearances here and play vital roles in the story. And of course, Curran’s presence is ever-welcome.
The other thing I was happily surprised to see in this book was a step into other pantheons; as an Indonesian shapeshifter named Dali gives Hindu mythology 101 and helps Kate discover that the mysterious Reapers are Rakshasas, brutal warriors capable of strong magic though not the brightest creatures. Shifting away from the European/Greco-Roman pantheon is a welcome change; though this series is grounded firmly in traditional shapeshifter/vampire lore, it’s nice to see some variation. I especially loved the different types of mythological creatures in the Midnight Games arena, from Minotaurs to Oni.
Magic Strikes is, simply put, fantastic. The action is unparalleled, the character growth stunning. Fans of the series, you will be ecstatic – answers, romance, and one hell of an ending make this Ilona Andrews’s finest work to date.
Notable Quotes/Parts: I adored the action sequences in the Midnight Games, but my favorite line has to have come from Dali.
“Is there anything in the legends about a topaz called the Wolf Diamond? A large yellow gem maybe?” I asked.
Dali wrinkled her forehead. “Topaz is associated with Brihaspati – Jupiter.”
“The Roman god?” Jim frowned.
“No, the planet. Honestly, Jim, the world doesn’t revolve around the Greco-Roman pantheon.”
And I love that one of the characters is Indonesian (even though Dali is more of a male name than a female, and isn’t really Indonesian one). Represent.
Additional Thoughts: Seeing Rakshasas in this book started me thinking – besides the typical shapeshifters, vampires, demons and angels what other creatures or gods would you like to see in your Urban Fantasy? I would love to see more of the Hindu pantheon represented, or how about a Japanese-myth centered novel or series in its own right, as opposed to just passing tertiary characters? Or instead of the traditional vampire, why not the Filipino aswang, or instead of a changeling a tiyanak?
One of the scariest, absolute best horror movies of my youth was the Filipino film Tiyanak. It still scares me (and I’ve rewatched it recently)…definitely recommended for authors seeking inspiration for new monsters.
Also, on an unrelated note, Ilona Andrews has an excerpt up from book 4! Check it out.
Verdict: Absofreakinglutely awesome. I loved Magic Strikes and plan on rereading it very soon. In the words of Oliver Twist (which has nothing to do with this novel, except that it mimics the longing I felt upon finishing it), “Please sir, I want some more.”
Rating: 9 Damn Near Perfection
Reading Next: Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Rayborn