Review: Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andrews

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1)Magic Bites
by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Published April 1st 2007 by Penguin  
(first published March 27th 2007)
ISBN 0441014895

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these 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.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate's guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she's way out of her league—but she wouldn't have it any other way…-from Goodreads

I waited too long to review this book, and now I don't really remember enough of my first impression to give an objective review.

Kate Daniels is a mercenary-for-hire in a world where magic and technology vie for dominance in waves, kind of like large scale power outages (which do happen when the magic is on). Civilization, left reeling when buildings began collapsing and cars and airplanes became unreliable, has had to adapt to the resurgence of mystical, mythical forces in their world.

Interesting set-up, non? The world-building is pretty excellent. The concept takes a bit to warm up on you, but luckily this book has an excellent protagonist and otherwise solid characterization to keep you company while you adjust. Kate is a bit of a mysterious character at the outset, and there are details about her you don't discover by the end of the book. Not so enigmatic that it drives you crazy, but just intriguing enough to make the details stick in your head.

There are few weaknesses about this book, and if I'd reviewed it right away I may not have mentioned them at all, the first being that nearly every male character in this book is described as somewhat attractive. The mind reels. It's not a romance novel, and it's not trying not to be either. Nearly every single one of these attractive men propositions Kate at some point. She turns them all down, naturally, because trope. It sounds unkind, but you want to think that this protagonist is different from all of the other self-sufficient women protagonists who are super hot and extra caustic. She is and she isn't. Unfortunately you don't find out until later books why she ISN'T quite as unreasonably chaste and trope-y as she comes off. So in this context, the romances are a bit silly.

Fortunately, this book has something very few others do, aside from well executed writing from multiple authors. It has legitimately funny moments. I've mentioned before how difficult it is for me to read really joke-y books, because either the humor doesn't lift off the page or because it just doesn't ring true with me specifically. I'm weird. But Magic Bites DID make me laugh. More than once, less than five times. The acerbic wit Kate spouts is spot on. The punch lines are punchy. I can't even believe I am saying it. I NEVER say this. But it was.
Sickle claws shot from the tips of his stubby fingers. He spread his fingers in a catlike kneading motion, scraping the wooden surface of the table. "Oh boy," I said. "How do you fluff your pillows at night?"

And later, a conversation between Kate and The Beast Lord, Curran:
"What happened to the alpha-wolf?"
"Legos?" It sounded Greek but I couldn't recall anything mythological with that name. Wasn't it an island?
"He was carrying a load of laundry into the basement and tripped on the old set of LEGOs his kids left on the stairs. Broke two ribs and an ankle. He'll be out of commission for two weeks." Curran shook his head. "He picked a hell of a time. If I didn't need him I'd kill him."

I dimly recall chortling for several seconds over that one. There are other, funnier moments in subsequent books, these are just the ones I remembered to highlight here.

The final thing I really liked about Kate Daniels as a protagonist and the reality of this fictional world, was how realistically and humanly Kate and other characters reacted to things. If she was in danger, Kate was afraid. REALLY afraid. Not paralysed, but decently fearful. Monsters were monstrous - the vampires, for example, are horrifying in this universe. No Edward Cullens here. If someone got hurt (and didn't have super regeneration powers) they didn't miraculously push through it (though I suppose this is debatable. I tend to pass out from shock if I so much as sprain an ankle).

All in all this was a GREAT book and it opens a GREAT series. I eagerly await the latest.

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