Wednesday, 20 January 2021

#CBR13 Book 2: "Blood Heir" by Ilona Andrews

Page count: 359 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Info to new readers - while this is the first book in a new series, and as such, should be perfectly accessible to readers completely unaware of Ilona Andrews' previous books, it references A LOT of stuff that happened in the ten-book Kate Daniels series, as well as in Iron and Magic, a spin-off book of that series. I would highly recommend that you start there. 

Aurelia Ryder arrives back in Atlanta after an eight-year absence, trying to keep her presence mostly under the radar. The last time she was in the city, her name was Julie Olsen Lennart, adopted daughter of magical powerhouse Kate Daniels and the former Beast Lord of the Atlanta pack, Curran Lennart. Now there's a sinister prophecy requiring her return, but she can't see her family or let them know she's there, or Kate is destined to die. Aurelia/Julie needs to look into the grisly death of a clergyman and stop a malevolent magical force from gaining a foothold in Atlanta. 

Of course, going back to her old home means stirring up a lot of old memories, and she runs into a lot of familiar faces along the way. Julie Olsen was known and loved by many, Aurelia Ryder is an unknown entity and there are a lot of people who are curious as to her origins and reasons for suddenly appearing in Atlanta, fighting monsters, and trying to right wrongs. Thankfully, after her eight years away, Julie doesn't just have a new name, she has a different face and is quite the magical force to be reckoned with herself. She doesn't intend any harm to come to her family, even if they can't know she's protecting them.

This novel started as free snippets posted on Ilona Andrews' website because a Covid nurse e-mailed them and asked for something to read to take her mind off her gruelling work schedule. A few years back, in 2018, having finished the Kate Daniels series, the husband and wife team who make up Ilona Andrews considered doing a spin-off about Julie, Kate's adopted daughter, but were a bit bored with the world and its characters and needed a break for a while. This nurse's request seems to have made them revisit their already established paranormal fantasy world, moving the action eight years after the end of their last book, and switching to a different protagonist. A lot of the characters Aurelia/Julie interacts with and encounters over the course of the book first appeared in the Kate Daniels books, and while there is a lot of information given about the world, the magic system, the complex politics that keep it running, I suspect a reader would be a lot more comfortable having read at least some of the previous series before starting this one.

After a few months of posting partial chapters every week, when it became clear that this could actually be fashioned into a whole book fit for publication, the authors removed the free snippets and retooled the stuff they'd already written into an exciting, action-packed novel. The work they started on the website needed some major rewrites to work properly as a full book and I, for one, am happy with the wait as it seems we may be getting a whole new series out of it.

I know a lot of people found Julie a bit annoying as a supporting character in the Kate books. I never had a major problem with her, and teenagers are always difficult characters to write at the best of times. The protagonist of this book, Aurelia/Julie is a battle-hardened young woman who's been trained in both the magical and martial arts by true experts, and her involuntary physical changes have come about after long periods of pain and self-sacrifice. She loves her family and won't let any harm come to them, even if it pains her not to see her parents after a long absence. 

Aurelia/Julie has to solve a series of gruesome supernatural murders and prevent the demonic avatar of an ancient god from taking over Atlanta and claiming her in the bargain. She works with the Knights of the Order of Merciful Aid, and also has run-ins with old acquaintances from the Atlanta Pack of shapeshifters. Very unexpectedly, Julie also finds herself face to face with her old crush, Derek Gaunt, now also massively changed and back in Atlanta after years away. Now an actual honest to goodness princess and warrior in her own right, Julie believed herself to be over Derek, but every encounter they have proves to her that he's still someone who can make her far too flustered. She's sure he has no idea who Aurelia Ryder really is, though, and since the most expedient way to solve the murders seems to be working with him, she keeps finding herself in close contact with the wolf shifter, bantering and fighting.

There's a lot of set-up in this book, and it ends on a cliff hanger, so I certainly hope the authors are intending to continue this series for at least another book or two. I would obviously have liked more romance between Julie and Derek, but considering the authors dragged out Kate and Curran's courtship over two-three books, I guess it was overly optimistic that everything was going to be wrapped up with a neat little bow after just one book. 

If you're a fan of Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels books, you are sure to enjoy this book too. It felt very comforting to be back in a world I already knew well, seeing it through the eyes of a different character. It was obviously also nice to see how life had changed for a lot of the old fan favourites from the earlier series. I pre-ordered this, and it seems to be selling well. Fingers crossed that it's the start of a series, not a rather tantalising one-off. 

Judging a book by its cover: I feel like the only time ever that Ilona Andrews gets nice cover art is when they commission it themselves. To be fair (as well as the other picture of Julie as a Princess of Shinar that the very talented Luisa Preissler drew and which is also included in the book) may be one of my favourite cover images of any paranormal fantasy book I own. Which is funny, because White Hot is probably the most eye-gougingly bad book cover of any I own. Not many authors have such a breadth of cover art. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.  

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