Ace, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-937007-58-4
Magic Rises is – if we don’t count the short stories and spin-offs – the sixth installment in the Kate Daniels series. I mentioned in my review of the spin-off featuring Andrea, Gunmetal Magic, that it’d be a nice to have a change of scenery. Well, I have my wish granted in this one: Kate and her Consort, the Beast Lord Curran Lennart, along with their entourage take off to the Europe to get involved in the tenuous shapeshifter politics in exchange for some much-needed supply of panacea. The imaginatively called panacea is useful to reverse the condition of shifter children who have gone loup, and the need is made more urgent by Julie’s best friend going loup.
Of course, things are not what they seem, and waiting for them, along with violent grumpy shifters, is someone Kate is not going to be happy to bump into: Hugh d’Ambray.
As a book late in the series, Magic Rises suffers from a typical book of its kind. There’s the problem of the power creep: Kate isn’t just such an amazing person with super-duper powers and incomparable martial prowess by now, her entourage also boast the same superlative displays of awesomeness. Andrea never misses a shot, it seems, and her fiancé Raphael is amazing and super with daggers. Curran is, of course, Superman in a hair suit. There is no mystery of science, it seems, that can’t be solved by Dr Doolittle, and Saiman is now the resident banker and deus ex machina machine, offering solutions when the gang is stumped by something.
The only way the author can make a story still remain somewhat plausible, without such an overpowered cast mowing down everything in the first 150 pages, is by either bringing on the enemies in large numbers (in this case, Curran is forced by the others to bring only 15 people), jacking up the powers and the abilities of the enemies (in this case, dragon-like shifters, ooh), or putting in artificial barriers to prevent Kate from raining down apocalypse on everybody (in this case, Hugh is watching Kate carefully, so she can’t show him the true extent of her powers yet). The whole set-up feels rather contrived to me, I’m afraid.
While the story does offer some exciting scenes, they are nowhere as deliciously gory or violent as they used to be. There is a noticeable formula to them now. Kate gets overpowered, there are some supposedly serious injuries here, and then, at the last moment, she takes Slayer and cuts open the opponent. It’s like when Captain Planet gets splashed with pollution, Ultraman starts getting weak because of the atmosphere of Earth, or something like these – when Kate seems to be on the verge of defeat, it’s just a cue that she’d pull off a win in the next scene. And yes, that’s what always happens. But at least she has stopped fainting after every dramatic victory.
The bloated cast also poses some pacing issues. I don’t know why so many people have to tag along here when they don’t really have much role to play beyond muscle power. The bloated cast create problems with pacing because, well, you know how good buddies can be. They stop to say hi with Kate and Curran, the author then drops their back story, and as a result, it takes a while before these people actually get on a ship to Europe.
Oh, and the author also decides to introduce some conflict in the relationship between Curran and Kate. Unfortunately, it’s the classic That Ho Is Trying to Get My Man plot device that the author has used in the past in a manner that never goes well where I am concerned. I know some fans on the Curran-Kate ship of love are not happy with this subplot, and I can’t say I like it either, but I feel that Curran is behaving just like he always does. He never respects Kate as an equal, and here, his hanging her out to dry (under the guise of him doing this for her own good, of course) turns pretty ugly as it ends up humiliating Kate as well as putting her in danger. But I can’t say I’m surprised by his behavior. He’s just being what he is.
On the bright side, Kate has some pretty good chemistry with Hugh. I find myself thinking that, if I were Kate, the best way to stab Roland in the heart is by seducing Hugh with promises of great power and using him to get back at Roland, just like what her mother did to the man. It would be a pretty interesting turn of event, although I know such behavior is out of character for Kate. At least, it’d be more interesting than Kate’s story with Curran, which is far more romance novel-like than I’d have preferred in my urban fantasy romps. Also, that plot has to move one day. Right now, Kate is content to just wait it out until she’s more powerful or something, and this is starting to feel like an excuse to keep the series going.
At any rate, Magic Rises is just an average entry in this series. The usual excitement I feel while reading a book in this series isn’t there when it comes to this book. Things are starting to feel predictable and even stale, and the deus ex machina character showing up in the end to save the day only adds to my doldrums. Maybe it’s time to put Kate and Curran – especially Curran – in the fridge for a while and give me more spin-offs featuring other characters in different types of adventures. How about that druid fellow? He seems interesting.