Magic Bleeds
by Ilona Andrews, fantasy (2010)
Ace, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-441-01852-9


Magic Bleeds is the fourth book in Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series, and needless to say, you should try reading this series from the beginning, Magic Bites. You can read this one as a standalone book, since the plot is self-contained, but you may feel that you are missing a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle here and there. Do read the review of the first book for the back story of the series, at any rate.

Anyway, where we left off, Kate Daniels is still a loose cannon in the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid. When the story opens, she has prepared dinner and is expecting an intimate interlude with Curran, the Beast Lord of the Packs of the neighborhood, but that man doesn't show up. However, Kate would wish that her love life is her only problem here. Someone - or maybe several people - shows up in town, slaying a few shifters without much effort and causing these shifters' diseases to turn into very deadly and even sentient plague. As Kate investigates this matter further, she will learn that her past has finally caught up with her because the big bad villain in this story is someone closely related to her father.

That's all I'm going to say about the plot of this story. If you want to find out more, I recommend that you read this book unspoiled because that's the best way to enjoy the many delightful surprises found in this one.

The world building is, in a word, fantastic. Seriously, with every book in this series, I find something fabulous to savor. In this one, I learn more about Roland, Kate's father, and his origins. Even better, I discover that Jewish rabbi in this alternate universe can use a simple pen to create and cast powerful spells and their temples are guarded by golems that will pound all intruders into dust. A Chinese mercenary uses an old ritual found in fables to contain a virulent strain of cholera from escaping and spreading. The world of this series sees some of the best integration and creative interpretation of mythologies and folklore of many cultures and races. It's just superb - I can get completely lost in this setting and be all the more happy for it.

The story is a fast-paced and exciting read. I am at the edge of my seat from the first page to last as the author deftly gets the adrenaline rush started with the taut pacing and compelling narration. The momentum never flags even once. Even during the quieter moments, the story never feels dull. I also find that this book has the most perfect balance of humor and action-charged drama of all the books in the series so far. The humor is integrated easily into the story without feeling forced. Kate's sarcastic one-liners now flow more naturally instead of coming off as forced as well. This story also sees Kate coming to her own as a more well-rounded character. Despite her initial reluctance at forming relationships with other people, the former lone wolf comes off as more human with both strengths and vulnerabilities here.

But this book isn't without some flaws though. While the plot charges ahead to the finish line without losing its momentum, ultimately the villain is a disappointment. The villain starts out that this terrifying harbinger of disease and death, but as the story progresses, the villain seems to forget her powers and instead degenerates into a shrill cartoon villain. This villain has great potential to be a fabulous character, but the author underuses her and eventually kills her off without fully utilizing the potential of this character.

There are also some mild continuity issues and some inconsistencies here and there, although nothing really stands out to interrupt my enjoyment of my story. Still, maybe it'd be good if the author hires some impartial third party to proofread her future books to ensure that there is a consistent case for continuity in those books. It's not easy to keep track of everything over the course of a series, and sometimes the author may forget some things in a past book and end up contradicting her canon as a result, so maybe it's time to look into this matter before the issue becomes more glaring.

Now, let's talk about Curran. Yes, I know that there are many readers who read this book mostly for the romance, but I am not one of those readers because I don't like Curran. It's not that he's an alpha male and it's not that he thinks he's related to Stephanie Laurens's Cynster clones. No, it's the fact that he's a bloody stupid moron that gets to me. In the past, he had charged at Kate's opponent in his pathetic need to assert his masculinity by protecting the mere woman, and he's at it again here. But in this book, the villain has the ability to turn male shifters into berserk killers who lose all control of their senses. Kate has told him. Kate has told him. And yet, not only does he insist on accompanying the female action squad to confront the villain, he charges at the villain the moment Kate begins engaging with that villain. Kate isn't losing control of the fight. He just goes Leeroy Jenkins, ignores the plans, and... you can guess what happens eventually, I'm sure. Curran is an idiot. A bloody idiot. God.

I love the pack politics in this story, especially how the alpha female actually has complete power over the alpha male and every tribe knows and acknowledges that, heh. Aunt B, the bouda alpha, is a fabulous character and here, she steals every scenes she is in, effortlessly. But I don't know how long I can stick to this series if the author is going to have Curran continuously turning into the Incredible Hunk and sabotaging Kate's efforts - if she keeps it up, I think I will turn into a raging monster myself because that man is at the moment too stupid to die.

Oh, and one more thing. Can we have Kate stop fainting after every dramatic confrontation with a villain or use of powerful magic? After four books, this behavior is fast becoming a punchline.

Despite its flaws, Magic Bleeds is easily a solid and very entertaining book that I can't put down until the last page. It is, in my opinion, the best book in the series so far with so much to savor. I can do without Curran - can't we just kill off this moron, Ms Andrews? - but this book is so good, I can't help feeling that it may be a while before any urban fantasy book that comes my way in the future can top this baby.

Rating: 94


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