Magic Slays (A Kate Daniels Novel)
Penguin, May 31, 2011, $7.99 (print and digital)
Kate Daniels has quit the Order of Merciful Aid, but starting her own business isn’t easy when the Order starts disparaging her good name. And being the mate of the Beast Lord doesn’t bring in the customers, either. So when Atlanta’s premier Master of the Dead asks for help with a vampire, Kate jumps at the chance. Unfortunately, this is one case where Kate should have looked before she leapt.
Springtime is one of my favorites times of the year, and it has nothing to do with the birds chirping, the flowers booming, or any of that other crap.
Spring brings with it one of my favorite kick-ass heroines, Kate Daniels, and with her comes all the paranormal beings who reside in Kate Daniels’ Atlanta. Kate Daniels’ creators, the writing duo that writes under the Ilona Andrews moniker, have impeccable world-building.
Their imagery is some of the best I’ve read; the histories the authors lay out are vast and well defined, and all of the paranormal creatures are distinct from other interpretations out there. Witches, mages, vampires, and shapeshifters may be common place in Urban Fantasy, but the rules associated with each in this world are so unique, it feels like it’s the first time you’ve read about them.
Vampires, for example, are described as “monstrous gargoyles: hairless, corded with a tight network of steel-hard muscle, and smeared in lime-green and purple sun block. Bubble-gum-tinted nightmares.” No sparkling hunks with awesome hair here. Vampires are grotesque and mindless. Actually so much so that another group called “journeymen” must control them. Journeymen are the keepers of the undead. They steer a vamp’s body, and power its mind. A vamp doesn’t get to sneeze without their say so. Vamps are terrifying, and can add darkness to a series/story (which I love), but to see them as a minority race, almost meaningless, is interesting.
Shapeshifters are another species in the Kate Daniels series who stand out from other fictional incarnations. Shapeshifters can still be created with a bite from an existing shifter, but a simple bite is just the beginning, and it doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually turn. And chances of death are 50/50. Let me let the professional describe how it works:
“Lyc-V, the shapeshifter virus, stole pieces of the host’s DNA and dragged them over from animals to human hosts, resulting in a wereanimal: a human who took on beast shape.”
But the species gets even more unique when thus is allowed: “Once in a while the process happened in reverse, and some unfortunate animal ended up as an animal-were. Most of them were pathetic creatures, confused, mentally shortchanged, and unable to comprehend the rules of human society.”
I love that there are few limits to Andrews’ imagination, that when it comes to a mythical group as commonplace as shifters, they don’t hew to commonly-held ideas of paranormal or urban fantasy world-building tropes.
Even magic users—witches and mages—come off as brand new. The way they use magic, and the power that they exert are exciting and powerful.
“All living things generated magic, and humans were no exception. The magic was in the blood, in the saliva, in tears, and in urine. Body liquids could be used in any number of ways. I sealed wards with my blood. Roland made weapons and armor out of his. …Shamans, witches, and some neo-pagan cult practitioners all used urine.”
Magic and the power that it yields, is always a big part of each Kate Daniels story, but just when you think this world and the magic users in it, have been all mapped out, they add a new group to the tally board.
Magic Slays offers up a new brand of magic users for this plot, and even though the magic is new to the series, it fits right in. Andrews provides the reader with enough background to make the new group engaging, and enough new material to breath fresh life into the series.
Because this story centers heavily around magic users this time, we also get to interact with some of the witches and mages from Kate’s past as well. So, it feels like you’re getting a full introduction into three new magic races, instead of just the bad guys.
Yes, Kate and Curran are an amazing Hero/Heroine power couple, and yes, their chemistry is off the charts. But, this paranormal version of Atlanta is just as full of surprise and adventure. Magic Slays brings new ideas to a genre that can be inundated with re-makes. It reminds me that when it comes to Fantasy, the possibilities are endless.
Jessica Turner reviews Urban Fantasy, Paranormal and Sc-Fi Romances on her site The Spinecracker and is a trained chef who lives in San Diego with her very Irish husband.