Sunday 25 September 2016

#CBR8 Book 106: "Magic Binds" by Ilona Andrews

Page count: 336 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Spoiler warning! This is book nine in the Kate Daniels series. The penultimate book in the series, in fact. I will not be able to review this book without there being spoilers for earlier books. Don't read this if you're not all the way caught up. Do pick up the series if you like good Urban/Paranormal fantasy, though, it's pretty much the best out there at the moment.

 Private detective and supernatural powerhouse Kate Daniels is finally getting married to Curran Lennart, former Beast Lord of Atlanta. They ask Ronan, Black Vohlv of the Death god Chernobog to perform the ceremony, and he is beyond delighted, even after (or possibly because) he realises that he'll also have to tak on the role of wedding planner (seriously, after this book, I'd love to get a look at Ronan's Pinterest boards). Kate doesn't really see why the wedding can't just amount to people they care about showing up at a set date, they have some cake and get the deed done? Who cares about invitations, a fancy dress, cake, flowers or the like? Even being told by a number of different people that no, the wedding night is for the bride and groom, the wedding itself is for everyone else. Everyone who is anyone in Atlanta is going to want an invitation to this event and Kate and Curran can't half-ass it.

Kate has more pressing matters than her impending wedding to worry about. Her best friend, Andrea, alpha of the Bouda clan, is extremely pregnant, restless and freaking out because the baby might go loup at birth. If that happens, someone's going to have to put the baby down, and no one wants that.
Roland, Kate's ancient demi-god father, keeps challenging Kate's authority over Atlanta in all sorts of little ways, all while building a giant fortress just outside the area she's claimed as her own. Despite the friction, they still somehow seem to end up in seafood restaurants, having family dinners.

Now Roland has abducted Saiman, Kate's former ally. This is an insult he knows she cannot overlook. Kate needs to make a decision and the future is not looking bright. The Witch Oracle informs her that a massive battle is imminent, where the city will burn and people will suffer. Kate will suffer a terrible loss, and in every possible future the witches have seen, someone she loves, is killed by Roland. If she marries Curran, he dies. If she doesn't, the battle won't happen immediately, but her son will die instead. Naturally, neither option is acceptable to Kate and she is the only one with even the faintest chance to change the future, by doing something wholly unexpected and drastic. She's running out of time, and doesn't feel she can confide in Curran, the man she loves above everything.

While she's struggling with the knowledge that loss, death and warfare are looming in her future, Kate is also having to come to terms with her own growing powers, ever more tempted by her own dark side. She's getting snappish and impatient with those close to her and sees clearly that with each badly handled decision, she's more likely to becoming like her father. Initially, she stops herself from tapping into her dark side because she knows Curran, Julie or Derek (her chosen family) would disapprove, but she knows that she cannot define her choices on what others would think. She needs to find her own limits and moral centre, and resist being what either of her fathers, Voron or Roland, wanted her to be.

The Kate of the first book was alone, bitter and had very little to actually live for. Now Kate has friends, allies and a family who will stand with her, even through the upcoming inevitable battle. Paradoxically, she needs to become more powerful to defeat Roland once and for all, but the power could so easily corrupt her in the process. She needs to gain control of her raising powers before it changes her into someone unacceptable.

There are a number of little "side quests" for Kate to go on, to gather the resources she needs to implement her highly dangerous and rather unhinged plan. Curran is remarkably trusting throughout, even though Kate refuses to actually tell him much of what is going on or what she's working to prevent. He agrees to take some Guild mercenaries to Roland's castle to get Saiman back, while Kate creates a diversion elsewhere, trying to think outside the box in terms of recruiting support against her megalomaniac dad.

As a result, Kate and Curran are working apart for much of the book, but a number of minor supporting characters from former books show up to lend her a hand. In between Kate's frantic attempts to alter the unacceptable future(s), there is Roman, being excellent comic relief, arranging the wedding invitations, ambushing Kate with wedding dress fittings and cake samplings, to her immense (and very amusing) frustration. Without this lightness occasionally, the book would be pretty grim, with Kate's identity crisis taking the story to some dark places.

Just as Kate refuses to be Roland's idea of a compliant child, Julie, Kate's adoptive daughter, keeps on making decisions that deeply concern her parents. Due to the spell linking them, Kate cannot outright forbid Julie from spending time with Roland, even though she's terrified that he is manipulating the girl and in the initial stages of turning the young woman into his next warlord. Julie's first mother was no fool, though and Julie's past experiences means she has excellent instincts. She knows Kate and Curran need intel on Roland and that he can help her hone her magic skills to unprecedented new levels. She intends to use all of this to help her adoptive parents prevail in the end.

A new Kate Daniels book is among the highlights of my year and I made sure to clear my schedule (even though I have so much to do at work now) so that I could read the whole book in a day. The structure of Kate going on a number of mini quests before facing off against the "big bad" at the end made the story feel a bit like a video game, and while I liked it a lot, it still doesn't live up to the breathtaking awesomeness of book 7, Magic Breaks. This is the penultimate book in the series, there is indeed a battle, but the final confrontation will be in the next book. As such, the ending felt a bit incomplete, but the epilogue more than made up for it.

So much of this series has been about Kate finding a support network and she now has a true family, both made and found. There were several moments throughout the book that made me tear up, because of the moving events that took place. I read the epilogue with both tears in my eyes and a big grin in place. While Curran's gotten the last line for the last few books, this time the honour goes to Kate. Her announcement is by no means unexpected, and promises big things to come in the final book.

Judging a book by its cover: There have been some truly awful covers in this series (and for Ilona Andrews' books in general). I think they're on their sixth cover model for Kate at this point. In the grand scheme of things, I think this might be my favourite of the bunch. I love that Ilona actually insisted on Kate having some sort of flower embroidery on Kate's peasant blouse to reflect the Slavic traditions being woven through Kate's wedding ceremony. The model portraying Kate looks suitably fierce and ready to fight. I think (based on descriptions in the book) that her hair is a tad too long, but if book 10 has a cover half this good, I'll be very happy.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read 

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