Jumpdrives & Cantrips


Magic Burns
April 11, 2008, 2233
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

Magic BurnsMagic Burns by Ilona Andrews is one of the fastest reads I’ve had in a while. This urban fantasy book is the second in a series (following Magic Bites) featuring kickass-heroine-with-a-sword™ Kate Daniels. “Ilona Andrews” is actually a husband and wife writing team, and they are currently contracted for a novella and two more books in the series according to their site. Which I’m happy about, because they’ve hit on something good here. Magic Bites was a nice read, but not outstanding. Magic Burns is a definite improvement.

In Magic Burns, Kate Daniels shares time as a Guild Mercenary and a member of the Order (think of them as oft-magical knights with swords, books, sometimes guns, and an interest in helping people). Rampant gods, weres, vampires, undead, witches, and other magical sorts show up as Kate tries to protect a young street girl with a rare magical talent. And figure out why a disappearing crossbow-bearing thief keeps stealing the Pack’s maps. And find the missing witch coven. And survive the magic flares.

…And pay the bills.

Kate is nothing if not pragmatic. She’s not a genius, but she can figure things out with persistence and she has street-smarts. I love this, because it always annoys me when characters figure things out for no apparent reason. She is tough, and much as in the first books, her big mouth and impulsive nature gets her in frequent bouts of trouble. While she is far from perfect–especially emotionally speaking–her fighting ability and super-human ability to wield magical Words of Power sometimes seemed a bit much. Kate’s mysterious magic-laden past gets some air-time, but only teasers so we never really find out her full history.

As in Magic Bites, one of the main pleasures in this book is the world-building. Magic returns to the world after humans push things to the technological end of the spectrum (Andrews describes it as a pendulum in the book), but it flares in unpredictable waves that knock out some technology as this change occurs. Sometimes the magic works better, sometimes the tech does. But the magic keeps getting stronger. This makes for a neat plot device and also adds tension. The story takes place in a magical yet crumbling Atlanta. It has an apocalyptic feel, peppered with ruined skyscrapers and slums in areas with unstable and dangerous magic.

Two other things grabbed my attention. Most notably: the witty banter between various characters. It was paced well and often warranted at least a chuckle. The second is Kate’s love life, or lack thereof. Kate is a loner, and while she has hormones she is definitely afraid to listen to them. The well-constructed sexual tension between Kate and her main love interest, who just happens to be the Grand High Muckety-Muck of the Pack, is thick enough to plunk into a Jello mould and save for dessert. Which, in a way, makes me hope it doesn’t get consummated because it is so delicious.

However, while the book was a quick read, it kept speeding up in terms of action and events. It was as though there wasn’t enough time to unpack everything that happened in the last portion of the book. I understand some of the story needed to be cut for length, but I found things flying too fast and furious–except for an odd section that dragged as Kate tried to elicit a plot-turning gift from another character. I suspect the flow would have benefited from a slightly higher proportion of description to action in some parts to break up the action. I also would have liked to see more of other characters, especially Julie, the girl Kate spends her time protecting, and Kate’s colleague Andrea.

The fight scenes didn’t parse well for me; the flash and shine in the words felt as though it concealed a lack of knowledge and detail. For instance, Kate (who is kickass™ and all) suddenly decides to wield two swords instead of one, and I’m not sure she’s that kickass. From my limited experience wielding one sword is plenty hard enough to do without chopping off your own leg, much less two, and using both would be a lot more tiring if Kate doesn’t regularly train for it–which is something we never see as a reader.

Despite its faults, the words fly by and Ilona Andrews presents engrossing characters in a fascinating world. Magic Burns really caught my attention and held it despite the lulls. This is one urban fantasy series that pulls the scattered mythos of urban fantasy together into a cohesive mosaic. I’m curious to see where this series takes Kickass Kate™.

Andrews, Ilona. Magic Burns. New York: Ace Books, 2008. 260 pages. $6.99 (Canadian).

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6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thank you so much for the review! 🙂

Comment by ilona andrews

You’re very welcome. Thanks for writing a great book! 🙂

–Sara

Comment by admin

I’ve yet to read me an urban fantasy – I’ll probably start with Dresden Files (you’ve probably already read them?); but somthing is very off-putting about these kind of books – its not werevolwes or vampires…but Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the awful (this one is no exception as I can see) covers might have something to do with it. great review though.
thrinidir/uros

Comment by uroš

Thanks! I have read the first 5-6 books of the Dresden Files, but I actually don’t like them terribly much to be honest. I know a lot of people who love them, but I just get annoyed by the writing (the plotting is fine, though I find it vaguely annoying at times too).

Some urban fantasy covers are truly horrible… but there are some very good authors beneath them sometimes. The cover for this one… well, I’m not sure what’s with her chest, but it doesn’t look right, and her lips look as though she just got punched… Nevermind that the lion kind of looks like it has a glass eye. 😛

I highly recommend anything in the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris as a starting point, though Tanya Huff does a very good urban fantasy series as well (the covers were good, but have recently been changed to reflect the TV series based on the books and now look kind of bad).

Anyhow… now that I’ve spent a whack of time rambling!! 😉

–Sara

Comment by admin

You mean the Blood Books by Huff? I’ve actually seen them lying around in my fav local book-shop (to be perfectly honest – its the only one worth mentioning).

Comment by uroš

Yes, most of her books are excellent, and the Blood books are probably some of her most popular ones.

–Sara

Comment by admin




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