Ace, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-441-01583-2
Bwahahaha, oh boy, this is good. I have to hand it to Ilona Andrews: this is great. While I had plenty of residual fears about the author’s Kate Daniels series morphing into badly written sex manuals featuring sparkling rainbow-colored vampires and submissive werewolves despite having read and enjoyed Magic Bites, Magic Burns has me thinking that things may turn out to be very good after all.
In Magic Burns, Kate is asked by the shapeshifters to retrieve some maps that were stolen from them. This apparently simple and uncomplicated job turns into something much more complex as Kate finds herself taking in an orphaned young girl, crossing paths with a mischievous archer who can transform himself into smoke (talk about slippery), and dealing with the possible emergence of an angry Celtic god and his army of sea demons into this world. Meanwhile, Kate becomes increasingly flummoxed when it becomes clear that Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, is much more into him than she’d like.
This story is simply too much fun. This time around, the author introduces me to other power players in this alternate version of Atlanta: the werehyenas and the Covens of witches. Kate’s background, hinted at in the previous book, is revealed here. Also revealed in more detail is the cause of vampirism in this setting. Not to mention, Kate also gets to interact more with Curran.
You know, I am pretty tired of all that “kick-ass heroine hooks up with the biggest alpha dude in the town” trope, but I don’t mind the deliberate romantic tension between Kate and Curran at all. Their relationship here still has antagonistic overtones, but the author also manages to show me that there is a genuine possibility of respect, friendship, and even love developing between those two. In other words, I may be getting a well-written romance here, instead of just another token “girl shags alpha wolf or boss of all vampires” thing that every other romantic urban fantasy sees fit to have. I can’t wait.
I also like how Kate seems to be growing at a realistic pace as a character. Unlike in the previous book where she seems to have the entire collection of Christine Feehan‘s Carpathians books shoved up her sassy behind, Kate here actually seems capable of diplomacy and even common sense now and then. She’s still not the smartest bulb around, but as long as the author isn’t trying to convince me that Kate is a genius of some kind, I’m fine with that. What really surprises and delights me is how humor is integrated smoothly in this story, to the point that Kate, Curran, and the other key players in this story cracks me up when I least expect them to.
As for the story, this one saves most of the gore and violence in its absolutely thrilling last few chapters. I know this book is a keeper when I find myself holding my breath and gritting my teeth in nervousness while reading those pages when the carnage begins. I actually make a fist and chuckle when Kate does something really amazing in those pages and yes, I actually feel my eyes watering when that scene crops up. I know that is coming, because Ms Andrews isn’t subtle with the foreshadowing, but ouch, when it happens, my heart bleeds a little nonetheless.
But I have to ask Ms Andrews one thing: what does she have against ugly monsters? This is the second book where an ugly brute, unloved and neglected by the parent, is portrayed as the villain. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I have soft spots for the Arags and Sméagols of the world, but sometimes I wish these ugly monsters can catch a break. Who knows, maybe if they have found even a little love, they wouldn’t be so bad… surely? Come on, Ms Andrews, stop breaking my heart by having all these adorable misshapen brutes being typecast as villains just because these brutes don’t look like Edward Cullen and are despised for that physical flaw of theirs. Pretty people can be evil too, you know! And while we’re at it, can we stop describing every other guy Kate meets as tall? Ugly monstrous brutes and short people unite – give them love, perish the hate!
Its Beautiful People propaganda aside, Magic Burns is a thrilling and most exhilarating read. I was somewhat fatigued by romantic urban fantasy when I picked this book up. Now, I feel as if I can take on a thousand Edward Cullen clones and beat the crap out of them with my bare hands – bring ’em on – because this book has me recharged, all fired up and ready to take on the pile of romantic urban fantasy books in my house. Ah, the magic of a good book.