Thursday, April 16, 2009

TBR Day: Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

Ain't I lucky? I just happened to read a fantasy novel that's been in my TBR pile for the past two years and it actually fits the theme of this month for the TBR challenge :) Yay me!! I love it when it's all coincidence.

So I got Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews pretty much when it was just released. I got quite a good buzz around blogland if I remember correctly... However, I just never read it... I started it a few times and never got pass, hmmm, page 1 ^_^; Don't know why. Then, Magic Burns was released and I still didn't feel like reading. It's only when I read Leslie's review of Magic Strikes, the latest in the series that I was interested. She has a mini extract of the book and I got hooked LOL :) So today, I'll be reviewing Magic Bites and as a bonus, you also get Magic Burns and Magic Strikes.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
published by Ace/Berkley in March 2007
Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren't for the magic...

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate's guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta's magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings - and the death of kate's guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she's way out of her league - but she wouldn't have it any other way...
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels, book #1

The Story: Kate Daniels is a mercenary. She could have been part of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, like her guardian, Greg, wished; however, Kate has a problem with authority and hierarchy. Of course, all this becomes moot when Kate learns that her guardian was killed. The last person whom she cared for, the last person who really knew Kate's identify. Kate is determined to find Greg's murder... While looking for clues, she discovers that Greg was investigating a series of disappearances and was working closely with the Pack... and this is how Kate meets his Lord Beastly, Curran. Together, they discover a hideous monster... who wants Kate for himself.

My Opinion: Sooo. As first book goes, Magic Bites was so-so. I didn't fall in love with the world and Kate and if it wasn't because of the snippet I read in Leslie's review, I probably wouldn't have continued on. In my opinion, the world building is lacking a lot and I'll expand more about this, after I've reviewed the three books. Personally, I think the world buidling is weak and is not supporting the story enough. It leaves a lot of holes and questions and it's distracting.

In addition, I wasn't very impressed by Kate's character. She's okay, but she's very typical for an urban fantasy heroine in my opinion. It's as if authors are given a check-list when writing characters: kick-ass, check; mouthy, check; powerful, check; secret, check... and so on. Sometimes, it's okay and it works well... However, other times... I don't know. What's interesting about Kate is that we know she's powerful - or at least, will grow powerful. She's "special" and because of it, she's hiding... and readers want to know why she's special. I have to say, that's what kept me reading. Otherwise though, Kate doesn't stand out very much and I have to say, I'm starting to be a wee bit tired of heroines that don't know when to shut it ^_^; As for Curran, well think of him of the Alphas of the Alphas... He's actually a lion - king of the jungle! (Now, the covers make a bit more sense to me :) He's arrogant, strong and knows how to play dirty. Personally, from what I read of him in the first book, I preferred reserving my judgement. What saves the book in my opinion are the secondary characters. Jim and Derek are quite interesting and I guess, there's more potential with them :P

As for the plot, well again, so-so. I think that the book was very busy, introducing the different factions, the world building, the characters and so on. So to me, the storyline took the back-seat and never captured my attention.

My Grade: C. Like I said, so-so first book. There's potential, that's for sure... but if I've read this book back when it was released, would I be rushing to get the sequel? Not really. Luckily, the books improve as the series goes on :)

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews
published by Ace/Berkley in March 2008

Down in Atlanta, tempers - and temperatures - are about to flare...

As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels has seen her share of occupational hazards. Normally, waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. Now Kate's going to have to deal with problems on a much bigger scale: a divine one.

When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta's paramilitary clan of shapeshifters, she quickly realizes much more is at stake. During a flare, gods and goddesses can manifest - and battle for power. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug-of-war between two gods hoping for rebirth. And if Kate can't stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive...

Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels, book #2

The Story: There is a magic flare coming - think of it as a magic tsunami. Lots of things can go wrong during a flare and all the magic is enhanced... Not a good sign when your job is to clean up after magic gone wrong. While helping Jim and the Pack retrieved maps that were stolen by a guy who can teleport, Kate stumbles across a young girl, Julie, whose mother has disappeared. Julie's mother is part of a coven of witches who worshiped the goddess Morganna. Kate takes in Julie till she can find her mother; however, some sea demons are after the girl... and Kate realizes that she's embarked in much more than she's asked for...

My Opinion: A much better book! I think that once the authors had the whole world building and characters introduction out of the way, they could focused more on the storyline and development... and they did a good job.

I think this time, the plot was better, better written, better thought, better put together. More interesting as well. It's always fun to have a touch of mythology, god and goddess :) I enjoyed Kate character more as well. We got to see another side of her personality, more maternal - more caring and thoughtful. Her relationship with Curran is also developing, so another plus :) It's very funny to see these two characters interact, although I'd like to see Curran being, you know, rattled? :P LOL, the scene where Kate realizes what it means, the fact that Curran has fed her. Hilarious :)

Also, Kate's identity is slowly unraveled :) That also keeps the story interesting. I also like the new characters introduced. Julie, Andrea and Raphael :) I have to say, it's fun to see all these kind of shapeshifters interacting together, being one big clan.

My Grade: B. Not perfect, but still much better than Magic Bites :)

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews
published by Ace/Berkley in March 2009
When magic strikes and Atlanta goes to pieces, it's a job for Kate Daniels...

Drafted to work for the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems these days than she knows what to do with. 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 Beast Lord, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta's shapeshifting community...

Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels, book #3

The Story: Bit hard to summarize this one... Hmmm, Kate is having difficulty with her shapeshifter friends. First, she's avoiding Curran like the plague. Second, Jim is behaving coldly towards her and is refusing her offer of help when it's evident he needs it. Third, she is called to bail Derek out of a trouble - indeed, her werewolf friend has gone and tried to steal tickets to the Midnight Games, some kind of arena fights that are outlawed, especially by the Pack. So in short, her werewolf side-kick is in lots of trouble... Even more when he is found injured, disfigured and unable to shift into his werewolf form. That's when Jim comes clean to Kate, that he's been investigating the Midnight Games because he believes something could be a threat to the Pack... however, his investigation has not been sanctionned by Curran... and so, Jim, his team and Derek are on the lam... and of course, they've pulled Kate into their troubles.

My Opinion: Okay, my summary is not very good, but in short, this book is the best book so far in the series! :) I enjoyed it a lot, especially the second half :) It was just great, got me sitting on the edge of my seat, reading fast and best of all, it made me laughed!! Lots of funny moments in this book...

The plot was interesting and tight :) and like I said, very exciting. It really enraptured me :) There were a lot of good interactions in this book, Kate and Curran especially, Kate and her friends. I have to say, Kate seems more friendly now... She was also more in control in this book and so, her mouthiness didn't seem so out of place. You know when you're mouthy when you're afraid, well that sometimes is just stupid. However, this time, I thought she was being witty :) In addition, Kate's identity has finally been revealed! Can't wait to see how all this will impact on the future books. I really liked learning more about Kate's past and her adoptive father. The man sounded great and Kate was lucky to have him. I really wished he was alive.

The ending was just perfect. How the enemies were defeated and of course, the last scene between Kate and Curran. Their relationship is definitively developing, even though Kate doesn't want to. That is keeping things interesting.

So yes, this book was almost perfect :) I enjoyed the intrigue, liked Kate in this book with her interactions with all the other characters. Curran and Kate's relationship developing :) Discovering Kate's past. My only complaint is well again the world building, but also how she treated Saiman. Seriously, I don't understand her reaction to Saiman. Perhaps I missed something in the last book, but she was mean. They seemed to be friends at first and this time, she seemed really revulsed by him... and I didn't like it. I think that Saiman is a nice guy and yes, it's annoying the way he keeps trying to get her to sleep with him, but he's been there for her and he's helped her. So what was her problem?

Anyway, minor problem... but all the LOL moments made it up :) Here's one of my favorite scene... Just to put you in context, Curran, Kate and the rest are participating to the Midnight Games. They have to fight the opponents and Jim wants Curran, Kate and Dali to barely win their fight - not to show their true strength :) However, the fight was done in minutes... LOL :)

Jim waited for us at the Gold Gate. His teeth were bared.

"What happened to barely winning?"

"You said sloppy! Look, I didn't even use my sword; I hit him with my head, like a moron."

"A man with a sword attacked you and you disarmed him and knocked him out cold in under two seconds." He turned to Curran.

The Beast Lord shrugged. "It's not my fault that he doesn't know how to fall."

Jim's gaze slide from Curran to Dali. "What the hell was that?"

"Crimson Jaws of Death."

"And were you planning on letting me know that you can turn people's elbows backward?"

"I told you I did curses."

"You said they don't work!"

"I said they don't always work. This one worked apparently." Dali wrinkled her forehead. "It's not like I ever get to use them against live opponents anyway. It was an accident."

Jim looked at us. The clipboard snapped in his hands. He turned around and very deliberately walked away.

"I think we hurt his feelings." Dali looked at his retreating back, sighed, and went after him.

Curran looked at me. "What the hell was I supposed to do, catch the werebison as he was falling?"

Speaking of Dali, I really like her character!! LOL, it would have been fun to have a bit background on her... but LOL, a white tiger that is vegetarian and cannot support blood LOL :)

My Grade: B++. Definitively hope that the next book will be as good or better. I'm not giving it a higher grade though because I still have issue with the world building... which I'm going to address just below.

Okay, about world building. I thought the world building was a bit lacking in this series. It's very convoluted and you're giving a lot of information, but no explanations. I mean, after reading, I have a lot of questions... for example, when someone is infected with Lyc-V, do they only transform into wolves? In that case, how did other shapeshifters come to happen? And do other wereanimals the same as werewolves then? What about humans? What is the difference between humans with psychic powers such as empathy, telepathy and clairvoyance and people like Kate? Actually, what is Kate? She's a human with magical power? Then, how is she different than witches? See, we are introduced to so many "races" but we're not explained how they differ... Also, technology co-habits with older, more traditional habits such as horses and swords... but is it adopted by everyone? Actually, are there beings that are simply humans, devoid of magic? Are they inferior? Is there a hierarchy? The whole world is very hard for me to visualize and as you can see, I have lots of questions... this affects how much I enjoy the books. There are also some inconsistencies in time frame that bothers me. If those could be correct, then I'm sure the grades would be higher for all three books. Alas...