Sunday 25 June 2017

#CBR9 Book 58: "White Hot" by Ilona Andrews

Page count: 416 pages
Rating: 5 stars

This is book 2 in a trilogy and if you've not read Burn for Me yet, that's where you really should begin. While you could begin the story with this one, you'll get a better introduction to the story, characters and world-building if you start with book 1.

It's been a few months since the events of the first book, and Nevada has been practising her abilities, learning more about what she can do and how she can control them. She insists makes Augustine Montgomery agree to let her question a suspected serial killer of little girls, in order to verify the location of his latest victim, and he agrees, against his better judgement. In return, Nevada agrees to see a friend of his, Cornelius Harrison, whose wife was recently murdered under mysterious and clearly magical circumstances. She knows that she and her family may not have the power or resources to help Mr. Harrison, but his grief is so palpable and she feels enough for him and his daughter to agree to take the case anyway.

They have not been investigating long when they discover that Mrs. Harrison's death was part of a bigger conspiracy, possibly connected to the events Nevada were involved in a few months ago. While she's tried her best to put Connor "Mad" Rogan out of her mind (not helped by the constant teasing and hinting from her family), they are soon reunited, as Connor is also investigating the event, having lost several of his people in the same incident. He persuades Mr. Harrison that it would be in their best interests to work together, and Nevada doesn't really have a choice but to respect her client's wishes.

The chemistry between Nevada and Connor is as strong as ever, and while to Nevada, it may have seemed as if he completely forgot about her after she rejected his over the top suggestion that she come away with him at the end of the last book, he's clearly just been biding his time, doing whatever he can to keep her and her family safe from any and all threats they might be facing. It becomes clear very quickly that a group of very powerful people are working together to create chaos and possibly destroy Houston and Nevada and Connor have once again made themselves their biggest enemies. Will they survive long enough to actually have a proper conversation about their attraction and the possible future of their relationship?

In Burn for Me we were introduced to Nevada Baylor and Connor Rogan and the alternate reality where there are any number of magic users all over globe and the more powerful, the higher the political power the families hold. Connor "Mad" Rogan was a bit too much of a careless and ruthless alpha male, so incredibly powerful that he was used to take what he wanted and act without long-term consequences. He has a lot of potential as a hero, but was clearly far too emotionally closed off and unstable to be a proper partner to the awesome Nevada, whose powers were clearly only hinted at in the first book. Here we get a lot more back-story into what made him the man he is (it's not exactly pretty) and Nevada gets a greater understanding of what she's going to have to face, if she decides that he is the right man for her.

It was obvious that Connor realised very quickly that Nevada was a Prime, even though she herself was unaware of the scope and extent of her abilities. Now she has started learning to use and control them, but she doesn't seem to realise how just how dangerous exposing her abilities to the world might be, and what long-term consequences it can have for her family or her potential relationship with Connor.

In this book, more of Nevada's awesome family get their time to shine. Her cousins, the computer genius Bern and his brother Leon, still so frustrated that he doesn't seem to have any special abilities in a family with so many gifted people (it turns out he isn't as much of a dud as he thinks, I suspect this will be a plot point in the third book); her wonderful and strong grandmother and mother, who both work so hard to help protect the family; and her younger sisters, Arabella and Catalina, who can both be infuriating teenage brats, but who won't hesitate for a second to help the family and do their fair share of protective detail if it's required. It becomes clear over the course of the book that the Baylors are a very gifted family, with Catalina and Arabella having Prime-level powers of their own. We see some of what Catalina is capable of towards the end of the story, but Arabella's powers are still mostly a mystery, but all the hints we have been given suggest shape-shifting of some kind, possibly into something large and formidable.

Cornelius Harrison, an animal mage, who made a minor appearance in the first book also becomes important here. Ilona Andrews excel at characterisation, even when it comes to teenage and child characters, and Harrison's four-year-old Mathilda is never just a plot moppet, although she is used very well to bring out the unexpectedly softer side to several other characters over the course of the story. Harrison's ability to control animals is used excellently several times, including one of my absolute favourite scene, involving cat-burgling ferrets wearing infra-red cameras and little harnesses full of useful tools.

Impatient readers also have to wait quite a long time before the central couple finally have a chance to consummate their relationship. There are a number of fairly scorching scenes in the build-up, but they always get interrupted by something inconvenient, like prying family members or near-death experiences.

While the stakes sometimes seem higher in this book than in the last, the resolution to their big problem seemed to almost go too smoothly. Having read the book twice over the course of a week, I find that even the somewhat weaker ending didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book overall, and at the moment, it's one of my very favourites of the many great paranormal fantasy books the Andrews have written so far. There seem to be two main threats facing the Baylors and Rogan in the next book, and I'm so intensely glad that I won't have to wait more than about a month to get my greedy hands on it.

Judging a book by its cover: I seriously don't even know where to begin with this cover. The really sad and awful truth is that THIS is what it looks like AFTER the marketing department actually edited it, managing to against all odds, make it worse than it was before. The original cover still had the implausibly muscular male model (who I'm going to assume is supposed to be Connor - note that it's a different dude from the cover of Burn for Me) and the Shakira-lookalike who I can only guess is supposed to be Nevada (again, completely different model than they used on the previous cover) in a very cheesy embrace, but there were not exaggerated and cartoonish-looking icicles all over the title font, nor was there the pastel nightmare that I think is supposed to show the ice cave our protagonists are trapped in at one point. The original cover was bad, this is so much worse.

To be fair, the actual scene in the ice cave would require a cover that is decidedly NSFW, hence both participant wearing at least some clothes here. It's still, without a doubt, the most eye-gougingly awful cover I think I've ever had the misfortune to see on a paranormal fantasy cover, and makes me very happy that I own the book in e-format, so I don't need to wrap my book in a bag when reading it on public transport.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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