When it comes to urban fantasy, I understand that Ilona Andrews is one of the major voices ever considered. Their Kate Daniels series has expanded into a number of smash hits. Magic Bites, the first in the series, was published in 2007 and became the starting point of the slowly but surely, fantastically built “alternate world” of Kate Daniels, the quirky yet determined heroine under the spotlight. It has an unusual basic idea, dark and gory atmosphere, and sense of humor I never thought would be fit for something like this.
When she is all alone gambling against her bottle of wine in the middle of the night, Kate Daniels is brought some bad news by her least favorite Master of the Dead that her guardian, Greg Feldman, has mysteriously died. Unable to wrap it around her mind, she dashes right away to the Order of Merciful Aid, where Greg was once a knight, and does her subtle investigation to confirm the truth. Further, the path she takes leads her to an awful suspicion around the Pack and the People at the same time, the two most powerful sides in Atlanta. Oddly, they are blaming each other. The fact that her investigation is going nowhere and that the People are reluctant to cooperate drives her to take a helping hand from the Pack and, especially, the arrogant, powerful Beast Lord. And when everything they gather takes them to Olathe, the People’s leader’s concubine and warrior, the case seems to come to an end. But it’s apparently not, and there’s something fishy that a certain person, hidden behind his identity and reputation, is actually the mastermind of all the murders happened. This mastermind knows very well what blood Kate is made of and wants it to gain its magnificent power.
Here I was introduced to an unusual creation of a leading female character I never thought I would encounter in a book. Kate Daniels is not an ordinary “white” character, although she is undoubtedly the heroine. She has naturally human weaknesses that oddly mix well with her heroic behavior. If you look at her character closely, perusing carefully the way Andrews describe her, she is actually a coward, a lone wolf, a selfish, headstrong, annoyingly snarky person. She’s not a character readers would adore without realizing her good qualities, namely funny, physically strong, independent, determined, and always there to help others. If any character could be complicated, then Kate Daniels is not just another complicated figure. She despises control but she’s cooperative, she’s individualistic but helpful, she’s emotionally vulnerable but determinedly strong, she’s not perfect in any way but she’s fabulously heroic. She’s like a heroine everyone will hate to love.
So unfortunately, Kate Daniels is not coupled to a leading male character as unusual as she is. If this is a paranormal romance, then Curran Lennart, the Beast Lord, is just the same as any other man I’ve ever encountered in the genre. He’s physically muscular and gorgeous, powerful, rich (for a shapeshifter), and seems to have the world under his feet. But, first and foremost, he is such an arrogant control freak. The only thing that differentiate him from other male characters I know so far in romances is that he is a shapeshifter, if that helps any.
Only Magic Bites is not a romance, much less a paranormal romance, although it is widely mistaken being so. It’s an action-packed, full-of-myth, violent urban fantasy with a touch of not-so-romantic love story. Andrews do not make the hero and heroine jump into the sack the minute they meet. Instead, the husband-and-wife writing team builds the connection between both from the very start, slowly through the course of events they narrate along the book. And speaking of the narrative, I feel a bit awkward about it. It might be the short plot which in turn makes the run of the story seem too hasty. How Andrews bring the reader to the final battle is also so simply ordinary that it only looks like any other battle scene without any significance. However, the world building and the application of all the strange terms are very well written I could feel the otherness of the unusual fantasy background they describe. They don’t let the reader misunderstand what they’re talking about, they explain and elaborate quite briefly yet clearly all the things the reader needs to know. In short, I can say Magic Bites has wonderful descriptions. Only I personally mind about the language. Too much foul language. Not that I never encountered such a thing in all my reading experience, but I think it’s just too much. On the positive side, the humor is just what I like, fresh, smart, annoyingly witty, though a little bit snarky sometimes.
On the whole, reading Magic Bites was a fun experience. I’d rather say that it’s not something extraordinary, but it offers you something unique and special, something that is worth your attention.