fantasy book review Magic Bites Ilona Andrews Kate DanielsMagic Bites by Ilona Andrews

ilona andrews Magic Bites fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMagic Bites (2007) is an exciting urban fantasy with a unique premise and detailed world-building, somewhat marred by an unsatisfying twist in the story’s central mystery.

I give Ilona Andrews a lot of points for creativity here. In Magic Bites‘ near-future setting, magic and technology come and go a bit like the weather; when magic is working, tech isn’t, and vice versa. The shifts are unpredictable, but it can be assumed there will be several per day. Andrews explores all the aspects of this situation and the ways people find to cope with it (magic-powered light bulbs to back up electric ones, horseback travel, etc.).  I loved the well-thought-out explanation for why telephones occasionally work during a magic phase. Especially haunting was the image of downtown Atlanta, its skyscrapers crumbling away with every onslaught of magic.

Also laudable is Andrews’ use of mythological creatures. As a fan of urban fantasy, a trend that saddens me in many recent novels is the fixation on vampires and werewolves to the exclusion of everything else. World folklore gives us a lot of “things that go bump in the night” to play with. In Magic Bites, there are vampires and werewolves (of course) but also other beasties, and the central villain is a horrific creature that exists in folklore but that I’ve never seen used before in a novel.

The heroine, Kate, is part of the novel’s uniqueness as well. At first, I didn’t like her — she seemed to be yet another of those urban fantasy heroines who constantly make fools of themselves to prove they’re tough, and somehow everyone loves them anyway. It turns out, though, that while Kate wisecracks constantly, there are consequences to her abrasive style. Andrews allows other characters to be offended by her heroine, and that’s something that’s all too rare.

Where Magic Bites lost me was in a brief series of scenes late in the story. There are two characters who might have done something awful; we’ll call them A and B. For reasons I never quite understood, everyone becomes convinced that A did the deed. Beats me why they think this. There aren’t really any clues pointing toward A. B, on the other hand, might as well have “Guilty” tattooed on his or her forehead. B has been telegraphing guilt throughout the book. Yet somehow no one thinks of him/her until A is exonerated. Then, to confuse me more, the character who was the ringleader in accusing A gets mad at Kate over the whole fiasco, even though it was his idea. I was lost, to say the least. If A was going to be a red herring, there should have been more clues leading in that direction, and B’s guilt should have been more subtle.

It picks back up after that, though, and there’s a suspenseful showdown with the baddie, and an ending that ties up the story nicely but leaves room for sequels, the first of which is already out.

I should mention that Magic Bites contains a lot of gory violence.

I would recommend Magic Bites to anyone who enjoyed early Laurell K. Hamilton; its blend of mystery, horror, and a tough heroine gives it some of the same “feel.”

~Kelly Lasiter

Kate Daniels (10 Book Series) by Ilona Andrews urban fantasy book reviewsfantasy book review Magic Bites Ilona Andrews Kate DanielsIn an alternative version of our world, technology and magic are at odds: when a “magic fluctuation” hits, most technological items (cell phones, cars, anything electrical) stop working, but sooner or later the magic wave ends and technology kicks in again. Smart people finds ways to get along whether magic or technology happens to be ascendant, like Kate Daniels, who carries a sword — fondly named Slayer — and is capable of kicking pretty much anyone’s ass at any given time. Someone has killed Kate’s friend and one-time mentor, Greg Feldman, and Kate is determined to find out who it is. But her investigation becomes increasingly dangerous to herself and those who are helping her.

Magic Bites is basically a detective story set in an urban fantasy world, complete with vampires and werewolves, but they’re vampires and werewolves (or, more accurately, shapechangers, since many of them are not wolves but rats, leopards, lions, etc.) like I’ve never seen or read about before. The world-building with the fantasy part of the story is done so well here. It struck me as detailed, highly original, and very well integrated into the overall story. Vampires, for example, are near-mindless automatons controlled by humans who are trained to do so:

. . . the mind of a vampire died the moment vampirism took hold. The vampires knew no pity and no fear; they couldn’t be trained; they had no ego. On a developmental level they stood close to insects . . . An insatiable hunger for blood ruled them and they slaughtered everything in their path in their urge to quench it.

Also this:

The thing followed me on all fours. It was a vampire, but one so ancient that no trace of it having walked upright remained. . . Its face no longer bore any resemblance to a human. . . Rows of fangs gleamed against the blackness.

Eeeek! Also eeeew!

There’s a lot of snarky humor in this book, again kind of like a gumshoe detective story. When Kate is summoned to a meeting with the shapechangers she considers her options for self-protection:

I paused, considered the arsenal available to me, put on thin wristbands loaded with silver needles, and took nothing else except Slayer. To get clear of two hundred enraged shapechangers I’d need a case of grenades and air support. There was no reason to weigh myself down with extra weapons. Then again, maybe I should take a knife. One knife, as a backup. Okay, two. And that’s it. Armed and dressed to kill — or rather to die quickly but in style — I went . . .

Overall, it’s not terribly deep or insightful, but it’s a fun read and I think it achieves very well what it’s trying to be. And the series seriously improves by the third book.

Magic Bites: Kate Daniels, Book 1 Audible Logo Audible Audiobook – Unabridged Ilona Andrews (Author), Renée Raudman (Narrator), NYLA (Publisher)~Tadiana Jones

fantasy book review Magic Bites Ilona Andrews Kate DanielsIt took me a while to warm up to Kate Daniels. In fact, I didn’t quite make it to “warmed up” in this novel, but I have persisted and the books are getting better.

I’m listening to the audiobooks. I’m not sure if it’s me or the reader, Renée Raudman, but it took a couple of books for me to warm up to her, too. I think she gradually grows into the role of Kate Daniels. By book 4, she’s really got it down.

~Kat Hooper

Published in 2007. Ilona Andrews invites you to experience the first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series featuring the intriguing fantasy world of mercenary Kate Daniels… Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way our of her league — but she wouldn’t want it any other way… This edition includes in-depth information about the world of Kate Daniels with descriptions of its characters and factions. Explore Kate’s Atlanta like never before with a quiz to find your place there and with answers to frequently asked questions. And don’t miss the prequel story “A Questionable Client” as well as scenes of events in Magic Bites from Curran’s point of view.


  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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  • Tadiana Jones

    TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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