9 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Strikes

Author: Ilona Andrews

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Ace
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…

Review:

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

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25 Comments

  • orannia
    April 14, 2009 at 1:29 am

    Thank you Thea! You’ve really made me question why I haven’t read any of these books yet! Am I mad?

    FYI – I’m currently reading the third Deanna Raybourn book (and loving it), so I’m looking forward to reading what you think of Silent in the Sanctuary!

    Oh, and I finished reading the second Sarah Monette book! Ummm, WOW!

  • Mandi
    April 14, 2009 at 4:28 am

    I just got this book a couple of days ago. I love this series! So glad to hear you liked it.

  • katiebabs
    April 14, 2009 at 5:55 am

    I wonder now that Curran and Kate have become closer, how will this change the tone of the series?

  • Janell
    April 14, 2009 at 6:12 am

    I finished this book over the weekend and actually closed it and said “Good” with a wonderful feeling of satisfaction. I agree that the characterizations continue to grow and evolve in such a real way-I can’t remember when I’ve feel more satisfied with a book-can’t wait for number 4!

  • Doug Knipe [SciFiGuy]
    April 14, 2009 at 7:33 am

    I only read your Verdict because I have this waiting in my TBR pile. I’ll come back after. So glad you gave it such high marks.

  • Anna
    April 14, 2009 at 9:15 am

    I just finished this one yesterday, and loved every mintue. I can’t wait to get my hands on book 4. πŸ˜€

    It took me till the second book to really get into this series. I’m glad I stuck with it.

  • KMont
    April 14, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Great review! I’d forgotten that line about the Greek pantheon; too funny.

    I really want to read this one again soon. Better yet, from book one first. I completely agree about how Kate’s character progressed so far. In book one, I wasn’t very impressed either at first. And a big YES to getting to know already introduced characters better!

    the thing about Kate and Curran’s relationship in this one, too, is that I think Curran showed amazing growth as well. I do not think Kate would be just another bed post notch, not with the way he came after her at the end.

  • Li
    April 14, 2009 at 11:23 am

    I just finished this one too. LOVED.

    I completely agree this was the best book yet – I remember being really lukewarm about this series after reading the first book, really liking the second, and now this is up there with my favourite -ever UF books.

    And Curran? *swoon*

  • Tiah
    April 14, 2009 at 11:50 am

    This is going to be my next series that I start so I’m glad to see all the good reviews. Can’t wait!!!

  • Angie
    April 14, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. It’s sitting right next to me and I’ve got to find time to start it. Thanks for the awesome review, Thea. This is my 2nd favorite UF series and I’m so happy to hear this one is the best yet.

  • Kris
    April 14, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I have this book on order through my tame romance bookstore so admit to only skimming your review, Thea, to allow anticipation build-up. I love this series. Can’t wait. :mrgreen:

  • Thea
    April 14, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Orannia – Oh you have to get on board with Kate Daniels already! I’m certain you will love her πŸ˜‰ And YES FINALLY! I found and got a chance to read [i]Silent in the Sanctuary[/i]…I cannot wait to get started with [i]Silent on the Moor[/i]!

    Mandi – Nice! I hope you enjoy this book as much as the others in the series. I know I certainly did πŸ™‚

    Katie – I’m certain something big will happen in the next book. Either Kate goes against her better judgment, or something else dramatic…I’m excited to see where their relationship goes too. These books remind me of early Anita Blake in the best possible way (I loved early Anita) – the slow simmering romance is much more my style.

    Janell – I too finished this book with a smile on my face and patted the cover happily (yes, sometimes I talk to my books, especially if they are as excellent as this entry). So glad you loved it too!

    Anna – I know! Book 4, hurry up already! I hear Ilona also has a novella coming out soon in the Must Love Hellhounds antho, so there will be a little something to hold us over until the next book πŸ™‚

    KMont – Yep, that line had me grinning ear to ear. I loved the incorporation of Rakshasas here. Very cool, and a welcome change. And on Curran, yes I agree with you. Those last few chapters…guh. (Out of an attempt to keep spoilers at a minimum, I’ll keep it vague and just say – folks, you are in for a treat)

    Li – My feelings exactly. The first book was kind of choppy and I didn’t really get the big deal with the series…but the second book won me over. And now this wonderful entry? Damn. Ilona Andrews has made her way onto my autobuy list, and one of my favorite UF series’.

    Tiah – Awesome! I cannot wait to see what you think. Make sure to stick with the series until you finish book 2 if you’re not crazy on book 1. Trust me, this is a series that just keeps getting better and better πŸ˜‰

    Angie – Girl, you are in for a treat :mrgreen: I cannot wait to see what you think! What is your first favorite UF series? Mercy?

    Kris – Get your hands on it as soon as possible! I’d brave shipping fees for [i]Magic Strikes[/i] πŸ˜€

  • Angie
    April 14, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Yup. Mercy’s #1. Then Kate. Then Jeri Smith-Ready’s Ciara Griffin.

  • Amy @ My Friend Amy
    April 14, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    I would like to try one of her books. This is a pretty glowing review. πŸ™‚ (I didn’t actually read all of it though…spoiler phobia)

  • Kris
    April 15, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Thea, it arrived yesterday πŸ˜€ and I read it last night :mrgreen:. Want more. Want more NOW.

    I love Curran :oops:.

  • Christine
    April 16, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Excellent review, Thea! I’ve read nothing but stellar reviews for Magic Strikes so far… I can’t wait to read it myself. I just bought it a few days ago. πŸ˜€

  • Maria
    May 2, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I just finished the second and third in the series–I have loved all three and agree that they just got better and better. I enjoyed reading through your review as well–always nice to see various points that I enjoyed brought out in a review!!!

    This and the John Levitt series are two of my favorite Urban Fantasy series. Levitt also uses other cultures/myths in his series and does a wonderful job of it.

    I think I’ve only purposely reread 3 books in my life. But the Ilona Andrews series? It’s going to be a reread. Shoot, I paged back to favorite parts right after I finished!!!!

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  • okioki
    June 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I’m completely head over heels in love with Ilona Andrews! I’ve picked up this series on a whim way back when only the first book came out, Magic Bites. I’ve never looked back. I usually dislike reading series before the entire flush of books come out. I remember as a wee bookworm how I would wait until all of Tamora Pierce books for Protector of the Small to come out before even starting on the series. I was very unusual.

    Point is, I love this series. It makes me laugh, cry and fume. I’ve already read the 4th book and I can’t wait for the 5th book to come out! It’s nutty how much I love them. Sigh…I guess I’ll calm down when the next The Edge book comes out. Until then…

  • Sarah
    June 17, 2010 at 8:54 am

    I just finished reading this series – after reading raving reviews in a lot of blogs – and I loved it!

    I completely agree with you on one thing, the Indo girl named Dali. I’m Indonesian and I don’t know anyone named Dali here. I think she’s adorable, but I was hoping she would have some power/magic that relates to the fact that she’s Indonesian. But that’s just me, being an Indo girl myself πŸ˜‰

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  • julia
    February 17, 2012 at 6:58 am

    There are no words to explain how I love this book. This series. And having Dali, an Indonesian. I practically squealed my head off when I read that she would have her own story. With Jim no less.

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