Wednesday 13 August 2014

#CBR6 Book 87: "Magic Breaks" by Ilona Andrews

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 5 stars

WARNING! This review will contain spoilers for some stuff in the earlier Kate Daniels books because it's pretty much impossible to write a review for the SEVENTH book in a series without revealing any of what's gone before. If you've not read this series before, this book is not where you want to start (even though the authors kindly included a handy guide to all the major players in the book and a very concise and informative guide to the fictional universe this series is set in). The series has been building for a long time, and you will not get the emotional payoff to truly enjoy this book if this is your first foray into the Kate Daniels world. Go off and read Magic Bites and Magic Burns (as the first book is a bit rough, and it often takes two books to really hook people). This review will be here when you've caught up with the series.

Kate Daniels knows that despite her attempts to keep her true identity hidden, despite training rigorously since she was a child, honing herself into a deadly weapon, she, and those she loves, are in imminent danger and the encounter she has been dreading for most of her life is rapidly approaching. She still has nightmares about the events that took place at the end of Magic Rises, reliving her inability to prevent the death of a close friend. She hungers for vengeance but also knows that she needs to try to keep her friends and family in the Atlanta Shapeshifter Pack as safe and out of harm's way when her legendary and probably immortal father comes for her. She's struggling to keep her business running, dealing with a number of petty leadership squabbles among the various factions of the Pack, trying to figure out a way to plan her wedding to Curran, the Beast Lord and leader of the Pack without insulting anyone or ruffling anyone's feathers, whilst all she really wants to do is run away to be alone with Curran. Wishing isn't going to make it so, however.

Curran is called away to deal with a trade dispute and takes some of the strongest alphas among the shape shifters with him. Kate only has to hold the fort alone for a few days, which is of course why the enemies of the Pack wait until they are separated to strike. During what was supposed to be a fairly routine meeting, Kate is presented with a dead body and has twenty-four hours to round up the killer, or she will have a supernatural war on her hands. Her opponent is stronger, more experienced than her and utterly ruthless and will stop at nothing to gain the upper hand. Can Kate outsmart him and prevent everything she holds dear from being destroyed?

I love Ilona Andrews, the married couple who write the Kate Daniels books. I own most of their books in both paperback and e-book copies and would happily buy their shopping lists if they decided to publish them. Based on everything else they'd written, such a collection would still include action, humour and be vastly entertaining. This is the first of their books to be published in hardback, meaning that the e-book was also more expensive than before. It was worth every penny. If you're a fan of the series, but can't afford to buy the book, run to your nearest library and reserve yourself a copy. It starts out fairly slow, but by chapter three, the action really kicks off, seizes you by the throat and doesn't really let go until you've finished the book.

As I mentioned above, before the story even starts, there is a very helpful little guide to all the major characters, reminding you of who they are and what their significance is in the wider narrative. Probably bored with introducing the various important aspects of the world building in a slightly different way for the seventh time, the authors also let Barabas, the were-mongoose lawyer who acts as Kate's chief advisor and sometime babysitter explain all the pertinent things a reader needs to know about the fantasy universe in which these books are set. It's a very clever device, and helps long time readers who don't obsessively re-read the series in between each new book remember where the story so far has taken them.

This is the seventh book in the series, and under their original contract, it was supposed to have been the final book about Kate Daniels. It's the book that entire series has built towards, where Kate and Roland finally face off against each other and everything is in the balance. Even so, the focus is taken off a lot of the regular supporting cast in the books. Curran is away for more than half of the book, his second in command Jim is busy trying to root out the traitor in the Pack, Andrea is busy learning to be an alpha for the Bouda clan and Julie is sent far away for safety reasons. This allows the authors to feature and expand the roles of other, previously minor characters, such as Barabas and Robert (one of the alphas of Clan Rat). Desandra, the European werewolf who gave birth to twins in the previous book and who returned to the States with Kate and Curran is given an important part in the narrative and she's delightful. I'm not sure why, but she reminded me of a more socially adept Helena from Orphan Black. I can't wait to see where they take the character from here. Not all of the regular sidekicks are missing though, Derek and Ascanio are still right by Kate's side, and their friendly rivalry and quips made me laugh out loud repeatedly.

Kate has come such a long way from the beginning of the series, when she kept herself isolated from everyone and everything, only caring about her next paycheck and how she could improve her abilities until she faced Roland. Now she has a strong and devoted partner in Curran, an adopted daughter, a loyal best friend and a wealth of friends and supporters, all of whom she feels protective of and who can be used against her. Hugh d'Ambray, Roland's sociopathic right-hand man is in Atlanta and he doesn't care if he has to kill every shapeshifter there is to get to Kate. He seems to have an unhealthy obsession with her and will use every underhanded trick in the book to get her to submit to him.

While I may not be happy with Curran's actions in the last book (which I still think were flimsily explained), his and Kate's relationship is stronger than ever and when Kate faces the biggest challenges of her life, she never doubts that he will come to her aid as soon as he can. Their devotion and love towards one another made me squee, and the genuine friendship and loyalty that Kate has managed to develop with so many people in Atlanta truly shows how much she has changed. No longer letting herself be dictated by the training and warnings of her long-dead mentor, Kate has forged a new path for herself, surrounded by friends and family, but as a result, also has so much more to lose.

This book really is a rollicking roller-coaster of a ride. I giggled, I gasped, I bit my knuckles in tense situations, I sighed wistfully, I grimaced (some stuff really is rather gory), I cheered, I swooned, I cried and I cackled with laughter. In many ways, this book reminded me of Changes, where Jim Butcher suddenly takes all the things he's established in his fantasy world and turns everything on its head for his main character and the readers. It was much the same here. A lot of what the story has been building towards comes to a conclusion, but it may not play out exactly as you'd expect. It is absolutely not the final book for Kate, Curran and the others, but the playing field is a very different one at the end of this book than when it began. If you've read and enjoyed the previous six books (seven if you count Andrea's book, which I do) in the series, I cannot imagine that you won't find this a satisfying and electrifying read. It's certainly my new favourite. Excellently done.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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