Sunday, October 6, 2013

Series Review: The Kate Daniels Series (1-6) + Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

The Kate Daniels Series (1-6) + Gunmetal Magic
by Ilona Andrews

Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal / Mystery / Adventure / Romance

Ages: 15 and up

Note: This review contains SPOILERS! I try to avoid them as a rule, but when reviewing multiple books in a series, they are impossible to avoid. The whole review is kind of weird and not in my usual style, but I've never tried to review a series this long in one post before.


The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. We pushed the technological progress too far, and now magic returned with a vengeance. It comes in waves, without warning, and vanishes as suddenly as it appears. When magic is up, planes drop out of the sky, cars stall, electricity dies. When magic is down, guns work and spells fail.

It’s a volatile, screwed-up world. Magic feeds on technology, gnawing down on skyscrappers until most of them topple and fall, leaving only skeletal husks behind. Monsters prowl the ruined streets, werebears and werehyenas stalk their prey; and the Masters of the Dead, necromancers driven by their thirst of knowledge and wealth, pilot blood-crazed vampires with their minds.

In this world lives Kate Daniels. Kate likes her sword a little too much and has a hard time controlling her mouth. The magic in her blood makes her a target, and she spent most of her life hiding in plain sight.  But sometimes even trained killers make friends and fall in love, and when the universe tries to kick them in the face, they kick back.

My Thoughts:

I recently read this series start to finish, including the spin-off novel Gunmetal Magic and most of the short stories, in under 48 hours. It was a marvelously entertaining 48 hours. Since I read them all together, I thought I would review them the same way. There will be some spoilers, just so you know. And I'll throw in some quotes, just because. :)

First of all, the series in its entirety is amazing. The world is well-developed and interesting, the characters are unique and perfectly written, and the stories are a perfect combination of dark fantasy, hard-edged mystery and humor that left me laughing to the verge of tears. If you like sword-fighting heroics, magical misadventures and an eyebrow-raising courtship, this series will be perfect for you.

Magic Bites introduces us to Kate Daniels, a snarky mercenary with many secrets and a large sword who is setting out on a very personal investigation; the murder of her mentor and friend. A simple set-up, all the better to flesh out the world and all of its wondrous inhabitants. I liked the book from the first page, but it wasn't until Kate knelt down in a dark alley and called 'Here, kitty, kitty, kitty' to the lion shape-shifter Beast Lord that I started cackling in gleeful anticipation for what was to come. I can mark that one sentence as the place where I fell in love with the series.

Magic Burns starts with a bang, or rather, a large fire and a crossbow bolt. The scale of the plot is larger than that of Magic Bites, what with a trouble-making ancient thief in town trying to steal kisses from Kate, among other things, and certain Celtic deities running amok. The tension between Kate and Curran, the Beast Lord, reaches delightful new heights and Julie, a street-savvy witch's daughter, makes her appearance. So does Raphael, the charming werehyena who takes a liking to Andrea, Kate's best friend. This book was maybe a shade darker than the first, but had just as much fun. Curran has far too much fun teasing. Plus I highly approve of Kate's favorite book.

"I kiss like a madman!"

Magic Strikes begins with a banshee on a telephone pole. I loved how random a start that was. In this book, Kate is called to aid her teenage werewolf sidekick Derek, who has gotten himself into a spot of trouble involving a pretty girl and illegal fighting. Suddenly it seems like half the Pack is keeping secrets from Curran, and Kate is caught right in the middle, and isn't that a fun place to be? Just to complicate things more, mwahaha, Curran's teasing is becoming more serious. I love how the authors have managed to keep the perfect level of sexual tension between Kate and Curran. As someone who hates it when characters fall into bed too quickly, I really appreciate a drawn-out romance. It also has what are, in my opinion, some of the best action scenes of the entire series.

"What happened to barely winning?" 
 "You said sloppy! Look, I didn't even use my sword; I hit him with my head, like a moron."

Magic Bleeds starts with Kate waiting for Curran to show up for their date. And waiting. And waiting. When he stands her up, all heck breaks loose between them and it is oh so wonderful to watch. A battle of words and elaborate pranks is waged as their friends attempt to keep a safe distance while watching the fireworks. The teasing and sparring and tension have all lead to this; will they, or won't they? *chuckles evilly to self* This is my very favorite book of the entire series. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe. Even as Kate and Curran duke it out once and for all, someone else is launching their attack on Atlanta. Add Kate's past coming slowly to light and you have a brilliantly chaotic, endlessly entertaining recipe for utter disaster. I loved every word. Plus there's Grendel, the ever-vomiting poodle. And pie. Lots of pie.

"There is catnip all over my bed."
"Catnip? How peculiar. Perhaps you should speak to your head of housekeeping."
"I have to kill you. It's the only reasonable solution."
Magic Slays has Kate trying to get her new magical investigation business off the ground while learning the ropes of being Curran's mate and saving the world at the same time. So, business as usual, yes? She handles everything with her typical aplomb and lack of tact. I love watching her and Curran work out the kinks in their new relationship. The story takes a decidedly dark turn when some of the Pack's kids, including Julie, are attacked. Everyone becomes grim and protective and very, very determined. Despite the fewer laughs, I enjoyed this installment of Kate's adventures just as much as the others.

"You sure you don't need your Prince Charming to come and save you?"
"Sure, do you have one handy?"
"Oh, I think I could scrounge one up somewhere. As often as I have to rescue you..."
"I'm going to kick you in the head when I get home. Repeatedly."

Gunmetal Magic takes us on a side trip into the life of Andrea, Kate's best friend, as she deals with her heartbreak after the ruination of her relationship with Raphael and that fact that she is beastkin, a rare and reviled form of shapeshifter. When Raphael drags a new girlfriend into her office, she goes a little nuts. Which, strangely enough, is just the thing to get them talking again. Watching them argue through their issues while trying to work together was immensely entertaining. Kate and Curran made an appearance, but they kept to the edges of the story for the most part. I loved that one of my favorite mythological beings showed up in a villainous capacity; he made a great bad guy.

"I know it's difficult, since I have a shapely butt and all, but try to focus on our illegal burglary."
"As opposed to legal burglary?"

Magic Rises returns to Kate and Curran, just in time to see them off on their way to Europe and their first truly serious relationship difficulties since they became mates. They've hardly stepped off the boat before Curran appears to have taken up with another woman and Kate's past catches up with her. There aren't nearly as many laughs in this book, but it is the first one in the series to bring me to the verge of tears over the main characters' sheer emotional anguish, which is a different sort of entertainment. Is this the end of Kate and Curran? Will Kate's secrets come fully out in the open? Who will win the truly epic sword-fight two thirds of the way through the book? Since when do weredolphins exist??? *more maniacal laughter* I think the authors were having fun torturing the readers with this book, and I say 'torture' in the best sense of the word.

"What does that mean?"
"Magic turtle crossing."
"I got that one, but what about the second one?"
"Beware the magic turtles."
"They spit fire."

So, there you have it, the series thus far. The books started out lighthearted (well, somewhat) and simple (relatively speaking) but have morphed into more of the darkly humorous (understatement) and complex (not to mention weird; they are definitely getting weirder) as Kate draws inexorably closer to the inevitable battle with her nemesis (that dark secret from her past I mentioned before).

I shall conclude my review thusly: This. Series. Is. Awesome.

Rating System: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme). Ratings may contain spoilers.

I rate it a 7.10 for some uses of the f-word as well as mid-level and mild swearing.

The early books get a 3.10 for references and innuendo, books 4-6 plus Gunmetal Magic get 7-8.10 for some mildly descriptive scenes.

All books get an 8.10 for bloody fighting, murder and some torture.

            Lieder Madchen

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