Wednesday 23 December 2015

#CBR7 Books 144: "Magic Stars" by Ilona Andrews

Page count: 64 pages
Rating: 4 stars

This is a novella in the Kate Daniels universe. I would recommend that you read at least a few of the books in that series before reading this, although it would probably work relatively well on its own merits. This review may, however, contain spoilers for some of the later books in the series, so if you haven't read up to and including Magic Breaks and preferably Magic Shifts as well, proceed at your own risk. I must also add that I was granted an ARC of this novella, but did not have time to read it before it was on general release, when I also bought myself a copy. This review is in no way biased by having been given the ARC.

Derek Gaunt is a lone wolf, literally. He no longer belongs to any pack and is loyal to only a very few people. Among those are the former Beast Lord of Atlanta, Curran Lennart. So when the entire family of a weapon's smith frequented often by Curran and his Consort, Kate Daniels, is found brutally murdered and their house searched, Derek is asked to track down the killers and discover why the dirty deed was done. He prefers to work alone, and he certainly doesn't want Julie, Curran and Kate's adopted daughter, to tag along on his mission.

Yet when the two discover that the family were killed because of a highly magical artifact in their possession, one of three in fact, that the individual who sent the killers wants enough to murder again, Derek realises that he cannot continue without Julie. Able to detect all kinds of magic with her bare eyes, Julie is the only one who will be able to track the other two parts of the artifact, and lead them to the mastermind who ordered the killings in the first place. What was supposed to be a fairly simple assignment turns very dangerous and deadly far too quick and both Derek and Julie will be lucky if they make it out alive. I was surprised at how violent this story was. Possibly the shorter length of the story compressed the action sequences and made it seem more violent than the regular books.

Derek and Julie have long been fan favourites among the supporting cast in the Kate Daniels books. Initially Kate's somewhat reluctant sidekick and quite the pretty boy, Derek was nearly killed and left badly scarred after having molten silver (highly dangerous to shapeshifters) poured over his face, when trying to rescue a girl he'd fallen for. Julie was a street kid who lost her mother and got tangled up in some nasty magical business. Taken in and later adopted by Kate, she is now irrevocably bound to her by blood, after Kate was forced to purify Julie's blood with her own to save her life. After Kate in a showdown with her father laid magical claim to Atlanta, Julie has now appointed herself Kate's Herald. She is taking magic lessons from the manipulative and cunning Roland, to the great dismay of Derek, who is sure that the ancient magical powerhouse is using Julie for his own ends. Julie, on the other hand, claims they're going to need all the weapons and intel they can get against Roland, and if she can gather intelligence and maybe learn something of his weak spots while improving her magical abilities, so much the better.

In early books in the series, there were hints of both hero worship and infatuation by Julie for Derek. Their relationship in later books is often closer to exasperated cousins or even siblings, and the were-hyena Ascanio, as well as a handsome dragon creature of some sort that Julie goes to school with are also competing for Julie's affection. It was a lot of fun to see them working together as a team in this novella, and I wouldn't mind seeing them team up to fight monsters and saving each other's lives again some time.

According to Amazon, this is the first in a series called Grey Wolf, and I hope the sales and popularity is such that Ilona Andrews chooses to continue writing these spin-offs, if only as occasional interludes. As the normal Kate books are seen entirely from Kate's POV, it's always fun when the writers give us insight into other characters like this, and lets us see Kate and Curran in particular through the eyes of other characters in the series. As well as this novella, there's a whole book from Kate's best friend Andrea's POV, at least one short story about Julie and some novellas about Jim and Dali, the current Beast Lord and Lady. I know they have a lot of writing commitments, with the new Kate book, the Innkeeper Chronicles and their Hidden Legacy series, but hope that as a palate cleanser now and then, they may choose to give us more Grey Wolf stories.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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