Since Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave won a RiTA (TM), I thought I would dig out the notes I wrote back when I read the follow up to SitG, Silent in the Sanctuary. SitS was released back in January, so a bit of time has passed. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find those notes, so I'll have to reread and then reconstruct. I did, however, find several paragraphs of notes about Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites and Magic Burns. They don’t comprise a review per se, but I’m posting them anyway, since I’ve been quiet on the book front lately.
Warning: my spoiler speculations are included.
I read Magic Bites and liked it but didn’t love it. Not that there was anything wrong with it, I was just urban fantasy-ed out. I liked the world building, which seemed very distinct from other urban fantasy/vampire hunter series I’d read recently. What I appreciated most, though, was how it was being marketed – clearly marked as urban fantasy, so there were not romance genre expectations. At the time, I had just read several paranormal romances that were not romances. That is, there was no HEA; maybe there would be one eventually, but not for several books, at least, which felt like false advertising. Genre romance = HEA. Killing off a lover or spouse? No HEA. Anyway, at the time that I first read Magic Bites, I enjoyed the world building and Kate and the adventure, but mostly I appreciated that the book was marketed and labeled properly.
There was a bit of hype preceding Magic Burns, which prompted me to reread Magic Bites. Upon rereading, I enjoyed the book even more and began to look forward to the second book (and further books of the series, of course). But I had some questions, too.
Kate Daniels is an interesting narrator and protagonist. I wasn't entirely sure about her as character. The overarching impression I got was of anger and aggression, a barely restrained belligerence. These qualities in a heroine do not bother me; in fact, these qualities in some ways define my favorite protagonist, Eve Dallas. But for Kate, context for the violence was missing. Eve Dallas is a cop, an abuse survivor, and her aggression is a response to her life experiences, which have been revealed to the reader. Kate’s violent tendencies may be a result of her life experiences, but her backstory had not revealed that yet. She seemed like a child whistling through a cemetery in a lot of ways, wearing her anger and violence on the outside to intimidate others.
Spring forward to Magic Burns, and a chunk of that context has been provided. Spoiler: I’m assuming Roland is her biological father. It’s all rather like a Greek tragedy, that he kills his children for fear of their power, and that she’s biding her time and nurturing her power for the day when she can confront him. I’d say it was Oedipal, except she’s not a he.
But even as some information was revealed, I find more questions. How did her parents know Greg? Where is this Roland, geographically speaking? How did her father manage to hide from Roland, who seems all-powerful? How did her father die?
After reading Magic Burns, I wondered if Kate was going to be the next Anita Blake in the sense of gaining power and being a man-magnet. Except the power gains are through power words only, which was introduced in the first book. So no, okay there. The men? Mmm, still a little worried about that, but less so when I reason it out this way: Big Bad #1 was interested in her power; Crane was an aberration due to grief; Saiman is interested because she isn’t (this was obvious based on their very first encounter on the page in Magic Bites -- a subsequent snippet posted by IA on KristieJ’s blog make this even more clear); Morrigan's hound is a hound; and Curran…who is abrasive and adversarial, but listens to her. I’m kind of interesting to see where this goes. Given that Kate will eventually have to confront Roland (I assume), I’m not expecting an HEA with anyone, but I am interested in seeing how Kate has to negotiate personal relationships going forward.
Which brings me to the next thing: personal relationships generally. Kate is a very alone protagonist at the beginning. Yeah, yeah, traditional hero journeys are all about a lone boy going off and slaying the Big Bad and becoming a man, so Kate’s essential aloneness shouldn’t be a surprise or a big deal. But she’s set up in such a way that her aloneness isn’t going to work. First there’s Derek, who makes a fascinating sidekick. I’m hoping we get to see more of him, and hoping that the hints about his alpha potential are realized at some point in the future. Then there’s Andrea: Kate says that she has no friends when describing her life, but at the same time she calls Andrea her friend when defending her. And Julie is “my kid” in less than 24 hours. Kate has been drilled not to trust anyone, but she seems to be ignoring that training, drawing about her a family of sorts. Will she ultimately regret this, when her confrontation draws near and they are weaknesses or liabilities, or will it be the thing that saves her?
Other random questions: why is Curran striped? And why did a character in Magic Bites call him a half-breed?
In book #1, the use of power words exhausted Kate. How did she use them in book #2, then go on to fight a battle? Was it a result of the magic flare?
Other observations: there’s some clunky language and some copy/typesetting errors. For example, using emphatic when empathic makes more sense in context; jutted vs. jotted. And one continuity thing (pet peeve, sorry): at the pack meeting in book #1, Kate was wearing a leather jacket and tank top when she left for the meeting, but once at the meeting, she pushes up her sweatshirt.
All in all, I’m interesting in seeing where Ilona Andrews takes Kate and her version of Atlanta, post-magical flare.