Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews
In Magic Shifts (2015), the eighth book in Ilona Andrews’ KATE DANIELS urban fantasy series, Kate and Curran struggle with both old, ongoing problems ― in the form of Pack politics and Kate’s father Roland ― and new ones. *obligatory spoiler alert here for earlier books in the series*
Kate and her werelion mate Curran, who has resigned as Beast Lord of Atlanta’s huge pack of shapeshifters, are now trying to live a more ordinary, circumspect suburban life among humans, with mixed results. Some of the neighbors are alarmed at Curran’s walking around the neighborhood in his immense lion form (“He is patrolling,” Kate informs her nosiest neighbor, protecting the area), and Kate finds out that several of their shapeshifter friends, who have also separated from the Pack to follow Kate and Curran, have also moved into homes on their street. It kind of defeats the purpose of fitting into the neighborhood in a low-key way.
But more pressing problems soon arise, distracting Kate from their neighborhood and lifestyle issues. Gangs of ghouls, normally shy and fairly solitary creatures, are on the move in Atlanta and are attacking people ― an unheard-of development. Kate and Curran’s werebuffalo friend Eduardo has disappeared without a trace, alarming his fiancée George, daughter of the werebear Mahon who is the Pack’s executioner. Mahon, who wants George to marry another werebear rather than a buffalo, is shirking his duty as Clan Heavy’s Alpha to investigate Eduardo’s disappearance, so it’s left to Kate. And murderous, oddly magical giants and other creatures, whose bodies belch forth equally vicious monsters (like a ten-foot long spider-scorpion) when killed, have begun terrorizing Atlanta’s neighborhoods and businesses. At first these problems seem random and disconnected, but in the course of their investigation ― punctuated by numerous battles with swordfighting and hand-to-hand combat ― Kate and Curran soon find some surprising connections.
Magic Shifts, though an enjoyable installment in the KATE DANIELS series, wasn’t as strong for me as most of the other books in this series have been. Partly this is because the overarching plotlines of the series, especially Kate’s relationships with her immortal and dangerous father Roland and with Curran, inch forward in more subtle ways in this book. That leaves the burden of the novel to be borne by the action scenes and the mystery that are specific to Magic Shifts, and those just weren’t quite as compelling as most of Kate’s other recent adventures. The slightly disjointed plot, which lags just slightly in some chapters, reminded me of Magic Bites, the very first book in this series.
Still, some of the subplots in Magic Shifts were definitely worth the price of admission. Curran doesn’t miss Pack politics, but he does miss the challenge of making an organization successful. He gets the chance to exercise an ownership interest in Atlanta’s Mercenary Guild, and when Curran finds out that the guild is in horrendous disarray, that actually increases Curran’s interest in taking on the challenge. Mahon, the werebear Alpha who has made life difficult for Kate in the past, gets called on his current and prior antics by several other characters. And Roland becomes a more well-developed character for the first time, as he makes a play for more involvement in Atlanta and in Kate’s life. He can be tremendously charming, though Kate deeply distrusts his motives.
The Andrews team, as usual, does a fine job of weaving together various plotlines and elements. Most of the books in this series focus on mythology from a particular part of the world, and the Arabic mythology developed in Magic Shifts has some unexpected and intriguing elements. These are combined with some interesting developments in the lives of characters who fans of the series have come to care for. Magic Shifts is a solid entry in the overall series.
The audiobooks are excellent.