Ace, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-27749-2
Fantasy, 2015 (Reissue)
Oh, well played, Ilona Andrews, well played indeed. If you have been following my reviews of the author’s Kate Daniels series, you would have known how increasingly bored I was with each release of the last few books. The series suffer from the very issues that typically mark the end of my honeymoon period with a series – uncontrolled power creep, increasingly dominant presence of the love interest to the detriment of the heroine’s personality, and the prevalence of romance tropes that often act against the urban fantasy roots of the series.
Indeed, I sigh when I read the character description of Kate Daniels in this book.
Former mercenary, former member of the Order, currently Consort to Curran, Beast Lord of the Free People, and female alpha of the shapeshifter.
In other words, she used to be her own person, but now her current identity is that she is someone’s wife, a wife who holds the power she has over shapeshifters because of this relationship, as she is not a shapeshifter herself. The Pack now funds her business, and they are her only friends as she has cut off ties with the humans, who are now portrayed mostly as jealous, bigoted, or just plain mean fools unless those humans idolize Kate – then they are the good guys who play second fiddle to the glory of the hairy shifty people.
Even if I overlook the disappointing downward spiral of Kate’s identity development, I still can’t overlook the fact that the author chooses to stick Kate to the shapeshifters. I mean, we have a series with necromancers that control vampires via powerful telepathy, druids, Jewish rabbi that can summon sand golem using magic calligraphy, witches… and the author sticks the heroine to the most boring aspects of this world – were-whatevers that behave just like were-whatevers in other series – and isolate her from the rest of this fascinating world. What a waste!
Anyway, in this book, Kate tries to get the spooks in Atlanta together to get ready to meet Hugh D’Ambry’s forces head on. Oh, and Curran needs to run off and do something – thank you Jesus, Buddha. and Hare Rama, Hare Krishna because this is a glorious day – so Kate is on her own. Unfortunately, Hugh crashes the party and brings with him the very dead carcass of a Master of the Dead (not Ghastek, fortunately, someone else unimportant and less adorable died instead), apparently killed by a shifter. Now the People want justice, and Kate is like, oh shucks, this is so clearly a trap but if she doesn’t get to the bottom of this in 24 hours, war of the woo-woo people would break out in Atlanta while Hugh and her father laugh in the background. Meanwhile, some witches warn Kate that her father is planning to annex Atlanta as his territory, a move that would spell doom to the Pack. Make Roland the President of the United States please! What, he’s supposed to be the bad guy? Anyone who wishes to wipe out the boring furballs is alright with me.
And the furballs are so boring now. They are all starting to come together, as new characters seem to be cobbled together from traits of pre-existing characters. Every werehyena is a handsome sex-crazed man now, for example. Desandra would normally be a fun kind of crazy-adorable homicidal character to remember, but she shares similar traits with Kate and Andrea to the point that there is this “been there, done that” feel where Desandra’s character is concerned. I have the same “been there, done that” feel with the rest of the story too. Kate does her thing, accompanied by her shapeshifter entourage, things get violent – normally all this is fun, and a part of me still enjoys it, but the formulaic feel of the whole thing dampens my enjoyment considerably. I miss the old days when everything about this series feels new and exciting. Now, I feel like I’m experiencing watered-down retreads of a formula the author has put to good use very well in the past.
Also, there are some crucial developments in this story that hinge on Kate discovering great powers by accident. Why would the bad guy put her in a place where she would come across this great power? Hmm.
Oh, and I hope you really like Curran, or else you may end up cringing like me each time Kate wishes desperately that big, strong Curran – who can kill everything because he is the most overpowered dude since Jesus got himself an Iron Man suit – is here to support her, and she does that a lot here.
Still, the author is sneaky. Late in the story, I was planning to stop following the series after this book. It felt right. This book ends on a note that can be considered a closure of sorts, a happy ending for now, although the series is still continuing since it is still making both the author and her publisher money, heh. But the author does a remarkable thing by the last page of this book. No, she didn’t kill off Curran, and heaven knows, if she did that, I’d be happy to clean Ilona Andrews’s fridge every day for the next five years. No, the author puts in motion certain developments that, should they stick for the next few books, would erase much of my issues with this series. Yes, Kate would have more reasons to interact with other fascinating elements in this setting, no more 99% were-whatever all the time. Of course, Kate gets a major power upgrade by the end of this book, and Curran still lives, so I have my reservations, but I may just check out the next book after all.
So yes, Magic Breaks by itself isn’t anything special. It’s readable, but it has a by-the-numbers feel for much of the story. But just when I am about to let go of this series, the author has me seriously considering giving the series another chance. Like I said earlier – well played indeed, Ms Andrews.
Oh, and #TeamGhastek, #JusticeForArag.