Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
In Magic Breaks (2014), the seventh book in Ilona Andrews’ KATE DANIELS urban fantasy series, the overarching plot lines of the series takes a lion-sized step forward, with a few major surprises along the way. *some spoilers for earlier books in the series*
Kate Daniels, her mate Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta’s shapeshifter Pack, and their group have returned from their perilous trip to Europe, described in Magic Rises, where they ran into conflict with Hugh d’Ambray, the warlord of Roland. Roland is an ancient, immortal legend with nearly godlike magical powers, and Kate has been both hiding from him and planning his death since her childhood: Kate was raised by Voron, a man with an enormous grudge against Roland. Hugh’s been circling around Kate for several books now, attempting to establish beyond any doubt that she is Roland’s daughter. Their group barely escaped him in Europe, and Kate knows Hugh will be back around again to cause more trouble. A couple of new friends joined Kate and Curran in Europe and are now part of the Atlanta Pack: Christopher, a mage who was severely mentally damaged by Roland and Hugh’s torture, and Desandra, a werewolf who is now becoming a powerful figure in Atlanta’s Clan Wolf and is giving the current wolf alpha, Jennifer, fits. (For that alone I adore Desandra.)
Curran is invited to bring several of the most powerful members of the Pack on a hunt in the mountains. Despite his and Kate’s concerns that it’s part of a plan to leave Kate without his support, the trip is important as part of a key negotiation, so Curran, Mahon and others go. Sure enough, once they’re out of town, Kate and the Pack get hit with a serious problem. At Conclave, a meeting between the vampire masters and Pack leadership, Hugh appears and dramatically throws down the gauntlet. Actually, what he throws down is the dead body of a Master of the Dead, who has clearly been murdered by a shapeshifter.
Kate now has twenty-four hours to find the shapeshifter killer and hand him or her over for punishment. A deadly war is on the verge of breaking out between these two supernatural forces, the vampire masters and the shapeshifters. Curran is still out of town, and Kate knows that Hugh is manipulating events to try to get control over her in one way or another, and presumably then deliver her, giftwrapped, into the deadly hands of Roland. And a cryptic but heartfelt warning is given to Kate by Christopher, who seems to have some foresight into future events.
Magic Breaks takes a while to really get rolling, though the story is given some color and humor by a lilac bunnycat and a giant-sized, black-and-white spotted stubborn mule named Cuddles (apparently by someone with an overactive sense of humor). But once the plot kicks into high gear it’s a fascinating tale. There’s a slight disconnect between the two halves of the story, a shift in focus that is marked by a sudden change in scenery. But the second half of the novel is worth the wait, and will remain etched in my memory … helped along by one or two rereads of key scenes after I finished the book.
Several long-term characters develop new depths in Magic Breaks. Ghastek, one of the most powerful vampire masters in Atlanta, becomes a far more well-rounded character. He and Kate share a traumatic experience that leads to Ghastek sharing his personal backstory with Kate, including the eyebrow-raising origin of his name. It makes him a more sympathetic character. Curran, once he rejoins the story, reveals new facets of his character as well. Kate herself needs to step up to the plate in a new and unnerving way, accepting and publicly displaying her full magical powers, not just her swordfighting abilities. And the long-awaited Roland finally makes an actual appearance. Despite his godly powers, he isn’t what readers might have expected. Roland is much more nuanced, a chilling mixture of fatherly affection and implacable, deadly power.
In the end, Kate and Curran each have a huge personal choice to make. While in some ways it’s a regrettable move, it opens the door for the series to move forward in a fresh way.
There’s a bonus short story included at the end of Magic Breaks (at least in the paperback copy that I read). “Magic Tests” is narrated by Julie, Kate’s teenage adopted daughter, who refused to stay put at the boarding school where Kate originally placed her. Julie and Kate visit Seven Stars Academy, where Kate hopes Julie will be willing to continue her education, despite Julie’s reluctance. Kate and the academy’s director sweeten the pot with a mystery that they ask Julie to help investigate: A freshman girl has disappeared without a trace, but the location spell indicates that she is still on the school’s grounds. If Ashlyn isn’t found within the next twenty-four hours, the school will need to alert the authorities, which they’re hoping to avoid.
As Julie jumps into the investigation ― and, as a natural side effect, starts to befriend some of the students there ― more of her personality is revealed, along with the functioning of her magical powers and her views about her relationship with Kate. Julie displays some admirable planning and deductive skills. I’m still mystified, though, about why a collection of apples that Julie finds locked in Ashlyn’s desk are suffused with mysterious bright green magic to Julie’s eyes. The source of the green magic is disclosed later, but not its connection to Ashlyn’s apples.
“Magic Tests” is a quick, light read; it’s not particularly memorable, but I enjoyed it.
This is a fun series!