Magic Slays
by Ilona Andrews, fantasy (2011)
Ace, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-441-02042-3


Here is the reason why I didn't update the website for a while. I was trying so hard to finish Magic Slays but real life kept intruding, to the point that I was this close to telling everyone that I had an infectious disease and my house had been declared a biohazard zone. Fortunately, the last page arrived before I had to resort to drastic measures. This one is that hard to put down.

This is the fifth book in the Kate Daniels series, but this one can actually stand alone very well provided that the new reader is prepared to make some effort to wade through the large cast of characters. The plot is self-contained and there is enough information to help newcomers get cozy with the setting and the recurring characters. For readers who are already following the series, well, this one is as close to a cozy walk in the park as it can get. Of course, with this being a book by Ilona Andrews, there are still plenty of violence, gore, morally ambiguous decisions performed in the name of honor and devotion to your loved ones, unexpected casualties, and everything that makes the author's books so good to soak into. It's just that this one is comparatively more sedate compared to previous books in the series. After all, this is the closest so far to Kate Daniels playing Nancy Drew with Andrea as her sidekick.

It is two months since the events in Magic Bleeds. Kate has left the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid - not that she has much choice in the matter, really - but her personal PI/bodyguard/you-tell-me-I'll-kick-ass business is not doing well at all. This is because nobody wants to offend her mate, Curran the Beast Lord, by putting her in dangerous situations that make the Beast Lord's temper boil. Fortunately, there are people desperate enough to hire Kate, or we won't have a story. The Red Guards need Kate's help to retrieve both a missing scientiest and his creation as they had vanished while under the care of the Red Guards. As Kate invesigates deeper into the matter, she realizes that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye: the future of every woo-woo people in Atlanta may be at stake here. Kate also learns more about the circumstances leading to her mother's death when she doesn't have to deal with some thankfully superficial angst about her feelings for Curran.

You know, it takes five books but I think I finally get Curran and Kate. Here, I am starting to appreciate how these two very stubborn people are determined to compromise, even if that word isn't present in their personal dictionaries. Despite Curran's manipulative and high-handed ways, he seems willing to drop everything for Kate. Ultimately, I have a couple here who want to make their relationship work without wanting the other person to change into someone else completely to suit their whims - it's an unexpectedly mature approach for two hot-headed knuckle-bruisers, and I am touched by their willingness to lay everything down on the table, including their lives, for each other.

In Magic Slays, there is a noticeably higher quotient of sitcom humor, investigation methodology, and emotional angst, especially when compared to the previous books which are pretty much a high octane adrenaline rush from page one. That's not to say that this story is boring - the last third of this book is as drenched in gore and highly charged with taut emotional drive like any other book in this series. Yes, Kate even faints - again, and for three days - after performing another OMG AWESOME woo-woo WOOT SO L33t skill.

Kate's increasing power creep is the only thing that unnerves me, and that is because I've become cynical where urban fantasy series decay is concerned - I never like stories where the heroine gains awesome powers at the most convenient moments to save the day, and there are several instances of Sue ex machina here that sets off alarm bells in my head. There is only so much having a powerful daddy can be used as a plot contrivance, and in this story, I feel that the author has inadvertently proven the Lighthouse Keepers right by loading Kate with more awesome powers. In this setting, it really does look like the measure of your worth as a person is how much woo-woo you have inherited from your parents. Couple this to the increasingly negative portrayal of powerless humans as villains and there are plenty of unfortunate implications to savor in this story.

I'm also tad disappointed by how the story is only as long as it is because everyone, including a few characters who have no reason to be so reticent, is keeping things from Kate even when it's better for them if they have told her everything in the first place.

Still, the narrative is top notch, Kate kicks rear ends even more than ever here (Curran is conveniently away most of the time so she gets to do her thing without that nitwit suffocating her with his "protection"), and I just cannot put this book down except during really urgent circumstances. The last third of the book is simply awesome as the author introduces yet another fascinating school of woo-woo in this story. Seriously, isn't it time for Kate to investigate some crimes in Chinatown? I really want to see how the author will take on Chinese mysticism.

Magic Slays is not as good as some of the previous books in this series, but the author proves that even when Kate is having a comparative downtime to catch her breath, that story is still going to rocking good prime entertainment. And this one even manages to sell me the romance between Curran and Kate! The world is going to be little less exciting until the next book, sigh.

Rating: 86


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