7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

Title: On the Edge

Author: Ilona Andrews

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: September 2009
Paperback: 336 pages

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in Ilona Andrews’s new The Edge series.

How did I get this book: Review Copy (from the Publisher)

Why did I read this book: I am a big fan Ilona Andrews fan. Her Kate Daniels series keeps getting better with each volume – in fact, this year’s Magic Strikes is shortlisted as one of my top 10 favorite reads of 2009.

Summary: (from amazon.com)
The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale.

The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.


Rose Drayton lives in a strange realm called the Edge – a sliver of land between the familiar world of the Broken (a mundane world where electricity, McDonald’s and WalMarts are the norm) and the Weird (where magic and castles reign). Able to withstand both the loss of magic that the Broken inflicts on anyone that crosses its border, but also able to use magic in the realm of the Weird, “Edgers” like Rose and her family have freedom of mobility, but live a cutthroat existence. Ever since their parents gave up on the family, Rose has protected and looked after her two younger half-brothers, working in the Broken for minimum wage as a cleaning lady, and warding the house in the Edge against magical threats. Things are made more complicated by Rose’s magical ability, for she is able to “flash” white, powerfully and precisely – a degree of magic that only bluebloods from the Weird should be able to produce. While Rose’s magic means she can protect her brothers and grandmother, it also makes her a target for bluebloods looking for a broodmare to produce powerful children, and corrupt neighbors who plan on selling her to the highest bidder. When a strange, powerful, undeniably blueblooded man named Declan shows up at Rose’s home, Rose is forced to submit to his proposition: she will give him three challenges, and if he can emerge victorious all three times, she will be his. Knowing that Declan is more powerful and dangerous than even Rose can hold off, she must agree to give herself and her family a chance to beat him. But even as Rose’s life is slipping into chaos, more trouble is brewing in the Edge – some ominous new form of magic is appearing, and devouring Rose’s neighbors whole, and it seems to be attracted to her.

On the Edge marks Illona Andrews’s departure from the Magic/Tech world of Kate Daniels, and embarks into new territory. It’s surprisingly difficult to classify On the Edge – on the one hand, the book has undeniably strong contemporary/urban fantasy elements, but on the the other the relationship between Rose and Declan really drives this novel in the manner of a paranormal romance (much more so than the relationship between Kate and Curran is featured in her other series). Regardless of label, On the Edge is simply a damn good story. Ms. Andrews made her way onto my autobuy list of authors with Magic Strikes, and On the Edge certainly did not disappoint.

The fantasy elements, with the creation of the worlds of the Weird, the Edge and the Broken are fabulous concepts that are richly detailed and well realized. For example, at one point in the novel, we learn that these worlds coexist on parallel dimensions, with corresponding geographies but alternate histories. Little details like that make me happy as a reader – Ms. Andrews has a knack for creating worlds that make sense, with power hierarchies firmly in place, histories and politics that ring true. It’s one of the things that makes her as successful and effective as she is as an author. I loved the idea of “flashing” magic, curses and wards, as well as the different strange magics of changelings. There’s a lot of variation in Rose’s world of the Edge, and it feels completely fresh and interesting (no rehash of werewolves, vampires, or mystical super mages here, thank goodness!). Even more impressive, however, is Ms. Andrews’s appreciation of the laws of the universe: for every action, there is a reaction; for every use of power, there is a consequence. This is demonstrated adroitly throughout the novel, most effectively with Georgie, Rose’s younger brother with his big heart and his ability to resurrect dead creatures.

In terms of characters, again Ms. Andrews shines. Rose is a heroine worth rooting for, and her need to protect her younger brothers, her concern for her family, and even her compassion for those neighbors who would have left her for dead are impressive and make her a very sympathetic, genuinely likable character. Declan is an alpha-type hero character that I’m certain will have some female fans swooning – he’s (of course) gorgeous and powerful and undeniably arrogant, but he’s also a guy with an agenda. He’s a manipulator, but not in a cold or cruel way. Rather, he does what he needs to in order to get the job done, even if that means misleading Rose. Though Declan’s motives may seem hazy initially, things gradually make sense as the novel progresses, as do his motivations for his attachment to Rose and her family. And, of course, the relationship between Rose and Declan is the stuff of paranormal romance gold. They’re both characters that aren’t looking for love, but find it anyways (despite many hurdles and mistrust in the way). Even little ol’ jaded me found myself smiling by the end of the novel, as these two characters fall in love with each other, despite themselves.

I should also mention that the secondary characters, particularly Rose’s younger brothers Jack and Georgie, are wonderful additions. Jack, a changeling who was born as a kitten who then shifted into a human, is a strange character with a different view of the world, and Ms. Andrews captures this alien-ness very well. Georgie, Jack’s older half-brother, has the gifts of necromancy, but also the curse of a large and generous heart. His inability to let things die causes a whole other realm of problems, as some of his own life force must be sacrificed each time he resurrects something. Both characters, and their relationships with each other and with Rose and Declan, are touching, and add an extra dimension of goodness to On the Edge.

Though I did love the characters and the world building elements of the book, there were some minor detractors from the novel. In particular, the central thesis for the book for the romance between Rose and Declan is based on a premise that really makes no sense (at least initially it makes no sense, for about the first half of the book). The question that kept ringing in my head was: WHY is Declan so interested in Rose, especially if he’s some super hot super magic noble blueblood? The whole concept of the three challenges before Declan can claim Rose also seems a little cheesy. As the novel progresses and motivations are revealed, I do understand, logically, what Ms. Andrews tries to accomplish, but it doesn’t change the fact that the romantic premise seems more than a little silly and forced. Also, as a fan of the Kate Daniels books, I was a little disappointed that Rose was another SuperPowered character. Rose is written very well, that much is undeniable, but I would like to see how Ms. Andrews deals with a character that isn’t supremely, advantageously powered over her peers. Also, the antagonist element, with the villain being truly EEEEVIL was similarly cheesy. There were some cringe-worthy, repetitive lines about ‘i will enjoy slurping the flesh from your bones! [insert evil cackle]’ that didn’t quite cut it for me. Finally, everything in On the Edge seemed to wrap up a little too nice and tidy for me – but that’s just a matter of personal taste.

Overall, these weaknesses were minor compared to the strengths of the novel, and I found myself highly enjoying On the Edge. I’ll definitely be back to the world of the Edge, very soon.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:

“Rosie!” Grandpa’s bellow shook the foundation of the house.

“Why me?” Rose wiped the dish soap suds from her hands with a kitchen towel, swiped the crossbow from the hook, and stomped onto the porch.


She kicked the screen door open. He towered in the yard, a huge shaggy bear of a man, deranged eyes opened wide, tangled beard caked with blood and quivering greyish shreds. She leveled the crossbow at him. Drunk as hell again.

“What is it?”

“I want to go to the pub. I want a pint.” His voice slipped into a whine. “Gimme some money!”


He hissed at her, swaying unsteadily on his feet. “Rosie! This is your last chance to give me a dollar!”

She sighed and shot him. The bolt bit between the eyes and Grandpa toppled onto his back like a log. His legs drummed the ground.

Rosie rested the butt of her crossbow on her hip. “All right, come out.”

The two boys slipped from behind the huge oak spreading its branches over the yard. Both were filthy with reddish mud, sap, and some other unidentifiable substances an eight and a ten year old could find in the Wood. A jagged scratch decorated Georgie’s neck and brown pine straw stuck out of his blond hair. Red welts marked the skin between Jack’s knuckles. He saw her looking at his hands. His eyes got big, amber irises flashing yellow, and he hid his fists behind his back.

“How many times do I have to say it: don’t touch the ward stones. Look at Grandpa Cletus! He’s been eating dog brains again, and now he’s drunk. It will take me half an hour to hose him off.”

You can read the full excerpt online HERE.

Additional Thoughts: I’m really not crazy about this cover. At all. BUT I think it’s a good move to reach out to a more romance-centric crowd, since On the Edge does manage to straddle the fantasy/paranormal romance category nicely. What about you? Any thoughts?

Make sure to check out Ilona Andrews’s website for On the Edge, which has a few great essays, including this one about the her world building. Awesome stuff.

The Edge, from Ilona-Andrews.com

Verdict: On the Edge is an intoxicating blend of contemporary fantasy and paranormal romance, sure to please Ms. Andrews’s existing fans, and new fans alike. Rose and Declan are not to be missed – definitely recommended.

Rating: 7 Very Good

Reading Next: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

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  • Karissa
    October 8, 2009 at 5:32 am

    I am glad to hear this is a good book. I really love the Kate Daniels series and have been looking forward to reading “On the Edge”. Thanks for the great book review!

  • Jacqueline L.
    October 8, 2009 at 6:20 am

    I JUST finished On the Edge. 🙂 Despite a few things that bugged me, I really really enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next book in the series. Also, I’m not a huge fan of the cover either. Actually, my only real beef with the image is it is Declan.

  • KMont
    October 8, 2009 at 6:41 am

    *Rose is written very well, that much is undeniable, but I would like to see how Ms. Andrews deals with a character that isn’t supremely, advantageously powered over her peers.*

    This is one of those between a rock and a hard place scenarios in UF fiction or any book from any genre that features one main character over everyone else for the most part. While I’m always of the mind that fiction isn’t set in stone and we CAN have a story with a heroine that isn’t supremely powerful, at the same time there is great potential for those powers to make a much more interesting story. I’ve seen the argument that OK, what if the heroine has no awesome powers or talents of any kind – what will make her interesting to readers and worth the time to read 350 plus pages? Only an author could tell that has tried it, but it’s an interesting debate, especially within the UF sphere, where action is almost a given and expected. Interesting action feels easier to deliver with a heroine with interesting powers.

    That being said, I felt that Andrews actually showed us a supremely powerful heroine whose powers worked against her. Because she was that powerful, her life had become a prison whereby she was constantly having to watch her back. People wanted pretty much nothing but to use her for their gain. Therefore, I didn’t see her powers as being a huge bonus in this particular case. Sure, she could whip ’em out to protect herself or others, but they didn’t gain her the respect she thought they would.

    I wasn’t wild about the cover at first and just grew used to it. It’s still that floating Declan head. Does not work for me at all. *shrug*

  • Thea
    October 8, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Karissa – My pleasure! I hope you get a chance to pick this one up. It’s something wonderful to hold you over until the next Kate Daniels! :mrgreen: Plus, it’s a solid good book in its own right.

    Jacqueline L – WORD on the image of Declan. And the sparkles. Just…no. But, I’m kinda used to crappy covers where UF and especially PNR are concerned so, whatevs! I’m glad you enjoyed this one too! I’m also looking forward to the next Edge book 🙂

    Kmont – I’ve seen the argument that OK, what if the heroine has no awesome powers or talents of any kind – what will make her interesting to readers and worth the time to read 350 plus pages? Only an author could tell that has tried it, but it’s an interesting debate, especially within the UF sphere, where action is almost a given and expected. Interesting action feels easier to deliver with a heroine with interesting powers.

    Ah, but “interesting” does not have to be superpowered. This is an assumption that bothers me with a lot of UF, especially, with leading ladies. In order to make them compelling or badass, the simple solution seems to make them uber-powerful, or to give them additional powers in each book (see Anita Blake, Jo Baldwin, Rachel Morgan, or Kate Daniels, for example). I love some books with this concept, but it becomes something of an easy out to create compelling heroines.

    But there are other, more challenging ways to go about writing characters and making them badass without giving them the trump card of power superior to everyone around them (which is fine and good, but repetitive and silly after a while: “Well OF COURSE such and such heroine is the baddest badass to prowl the streets – she’s a superstrong vampire killer with demon blood, weather powers, her mother was the most powerful white witch of memory, AND her father was the evilest most powerful sorcerer that ever lived!!!!!!!”) I think this is why Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson works so damn well – she’s at the BOTTOM of the power pyramid as a mere walker (interesting power) who can change into a coyote and back, but she’s had to learn how to submit to all the wolves around her – or at least appear to, while keeping her own strong, empowering status. When I interviewed the author earlier this year, she talked a bit about how she loved writing under-powered characters, because it forces you to really build the character and presents them with more realistic challenges in a harsh world, and I really loved that.

    Heck, recently Seanan McGuire’s Rosemary and Rue is another good example of an underpowered character struggling in a high-powered world.

    I think this is an overlooked device, and I do wish more authors especially in the UF and Fantasy genres in general would use it. It’s easy to have your main character a supermage or mistborn (sorry, that’s what I’m reading right now!). It’s infinitely harder to have your hero/heroine save the world when s/he has less magical tools at his/her disposal.

    At least, that’s my opinion :p

  • KMont
    October 8, 2009 at 9:33 am

    A drawback to the heroine with absolutely no powers whatsoever is their vulnerability. It gets frustrating at times that they constantly get the crap beat out of them – Sookie being a great example. I’m tired of that blond chickie being beaten down. How many times doe one pheonix need to rise out of the ashes.

    Plus, I’m not exactly looking for realism in UF, not in sense of would it be feasible in *our* reality. If superpowers – or even no superpowers – works within the context of the book, it just works. The worlds are filled with magic, so it’s really no surprise to me too see another heroine with awesome powers.

    Could there be a better mix of heroines both with and without superpowers? Probably so. We oughta do a list for our blogs to compare what’s out there!

  • MaryK
    October 8, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    “Interesting” discussion. :mrgreen:

    I’d like to read a list like that.

  • Elaine C.
    October 8, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I loved On The Edge and am eagerly waiting for book two. Ilona Andrews has a gift for creating great worlds just like Singh and Briggs. Speaking of main female characters that are kick ass without super powers, I thought immediately of Patricia Brigg’s shapeshifter, mechanic Mercy Thompson. She is a strong, kick female with no real super powers. She mainly succeeds with tons of help by her friends and her take no crap attitude. I’m sure there are other lead females but Mercy stands out in my mind.

  • Elaine C.
    October 8, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Lol sorry Thea I just saw you mentioned Brigg’s Mercy too! . . .She really does stand out.

  • Anonymous
    October 8, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    I am so getting this book, even with the bad cover. 😉 I became a HUGE Ilona Andrews fan after reading Magic Strikes.

  • Bridget Locke
    October 9, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Kmont’s thoughts on the “super-butt-kicking-heroine” makes me think of Corine from Ann Aguirre’s Blue Diablo. Yes, she has a power, but it’s not a kick-butt power. On the whole, she’s just…human. Loved this book; it was insane. 😀

  • Tiffany M
    October 9, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    I loved On the Edge, even the parts of it that you mentioned as negatives. I loved it enough that is was one of my favorites of this year (and I am anxiously awaiting the sequel). One of the things I love about your blog is that my tastes fall somewhere between yours and Ana’s. I love UF, YA, Romance, but only certain ones (I can get picky). Thank you so much for your blog!

  • Veronica F.
    October 9, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I agree about the cover; when covers look blatantly romance novel-ish I think the story will be cheesy and it turns me off. I’ve never read any of Ilona Andrews work but since I liked the review and it’s a book 1, I’ve decided to put it on my to-read list. I love starting a new series 🙂

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