Magic Bites: A lot of points for creativity

ilona andrews Magic Bites fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Magic Bites Ilona Andrews Kate DanielsMagic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Magic 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.

Kate Daniels (10 Book Series) by Ilona Andrews urban fantasy book reviewsThe 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.”

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.

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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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