Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews
Since Magic Bites was first published in 2007, the husband-and-wife writing team known as Ilona Andrews has developed a devoted fan base in the urban fantasy genre with their KATE DANIELS series. But all good things must come to an end, and when Magic Triumphs, the tenth novel in that series, is published in August 2018, the Andrews team has announced that it will be the end of that series. But they’ve left themselves some welcome loopholes: their new IRON COVENANT series, beginning with Iron and Magic (2018), will be a comfort to readers who will miss Kate Daniels. It’s set in the same world, and many familiar characters from the KATE DANIELS series make cameo appearances in this novel. Iron and Magic is true to the KATE DANIELS series but adds some new dimensions to it. (There will be a few spoilers for the KATE DANIELS series in this review.)
Hugh D’Ambrey, the main character in Iron and Magic, has been a dangerous enemy to Kate Daniels since the third book in the KATE series, Magic Strikes. For many years he was one of Roland’s two chief servants, sharing in Roland’s magic and immortality and leading the Iron Dogs, a powerful, elite private army. After a major misstep in his plotting to bring Kate to his master, Hugh was abandoned by Roland, who cut him off from his power and magic. Hugh reacted by going on a months-long bender, trying to drink himself into oblivion.
Hugh barely manages to pull himself back together in time to save what’s left of his Iron Dogs, who have been decimated, killed off one by one by Landon Nez, another of Roland’s servants who leads his vampire masters. Hugh and the Iron Dogs manage to regroup, but they have no funds and are starving, and finding a new base where they will be at least somewhat protected from Roland, Nez, and other enemies is difficult. They finally find a haven in Berry Hill, Kentucky, where there is a group of magic practitioners led by a woman named Elara, who has a particularly powerful type of mysterious eldritch magic. Elara’s group desperately needs the military protection that the Iron Dogs can supply … but because each group mistrusts the other, the key advisors decide that it’s necessary to cement the alliance with Hugh’s and Elara’s marriage.
Hugh and Elara are not thrilled about this plan. Hugh calls Elara the Ice Harpy, among other names, and they argue and insult each other every time they talk. The only thing they agree on is that it will be a marriage in name only (famous last words, I know). But soon enough, other conflicts and troubles arise that require Hugh and Elara to cooperate.
Iron and Magic has compelling main characters in Elara and Hugh, who take the antagonism that frequently showed up in the early stages of Kate and Curran’s relationship and amp it up several notches. Combativeness characterizes every aspect of their relationship, including their steamy sex scene. It’s a credit to how well-rounded these two characters are that I didn’t lose all patience with their ongoing battle of the sexes. For one thing, their banter is amusing:
“I told you it was stupid. I told you things always got out. You dug your heels in.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Wait.” She held up her hand. “Let me check if I care.”
Hugh glared at her.
“No,” she said. “Apparently, I don’t. It’s good that we got that straightened out.”
Also, both Hugh and Elara are intelligent and powerful individuals, and they’re each able to bend just a little with each other, and to give the other credit where it’s due. Hugh turns out to have some unexpected depths to his character, and Andrews found a clever way to explain away at least some of Hugh’s horribly coldhearted actions in the KATE DANIELS series.
Andrews is excellent at drawing a magical post-apocalyptic world with imaginative and compelling details. When Hugh stalks around Elara’s castle and plans (and executes) the addition of a moat to help fend off Nez’s vampire attacks, the details of the moat-building are realistically woven in. Intriguing and vivid descriptions give life to the story in so many ways: precisely-described sword fights, the military strategies involved in battles with vampires and other magical enemies, the problems with near-indestructible armor, a devotedly loyal war dog, a mischievous white horse that glows in moonlight and almost seems to have a horn.
Iron and Magic is set shortly after the end of Magic Binds, the ninth book in the KATE DANIELS series. Even though it mostly focuses on Hugh, his Iron Dogs, and a whole new set of characters, there are several appearances by characters from the KATE series, and a lot of plot nuances rely on being up to date with that series. I don’t really recommend picking up Iron and Magic if you haven’t read at least a few of the KATE DANIELS books, and the more the better. But for fans of that series, Iron and Magic is a must-read.
I had started a comment about the cover. I was pulling this up to read without my glasses on and at first I thought, “Oh, look, it’s a wedding picture on the cover.That’s different.” Then I put my glasses on and said, “Oh, no, it’s not.”
And then I read your review and… well, it IS!
Hah! I didn’t think about her white dress on the cover being her wedding dress, but it may very well have been. I checked the text and, yes, she did wear a white gown for the wedding. And there is an awesome monster battle that interrupts the post-wedding celebration so – it fits!
It really looks like a fun read.
Here’s a link to the authors’ description of the origin of this book: http://www.ilona-andrews.com/iron-and-magic-and-contest/
TL;DR: The idea of giving one of the most despicable characters in Kate Daniel’s world a romance was originally an April Fools joke which proved to be way more popular than the authors anticipated.
Jonathan, this is hilarious. I love when the fan says to the librarian, “If we request it enough, they will write it!”
I go on the Ilona Andrews blog fairly often (they have interesting stories to tell) so I’d heard this before, but neglected to mention it in my review. They certainly have devoted and enthusiastic fans!
Hugh was a dark, dark character in the Kate Daniels series, so I was curious to see how he’d get a redemption arc. I have to hand it to the Andrews: they thought of an angle that hadn’t occurred to me, but it makes a lot of sense in the context of the series.