Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series continues in a second installment, Magic Burns. This time, Andrews focus on a Celtic myth and the reincarnation of gods. The description of the “alternate world” they set up as the background develops enormously along with the development of the plot, despite the not-so-interesting idea of the story. It still has a strong atmosphere, thankfully, and some nice humor to entertain the reader.
In the middle of her mission to retrieve the Pack’s secret map, Kate Daniels meets a street kid named Julie whose mother is missing. Julie’s mother, Jessica, is a worshipper of the god Morrigan, and her disappearance brings out an unsettling suspicion in Kate’s mind. So she sets out to find her, but there is no fruit of it. Instead, Kate and Julie are attacked in Kate’s apartment by some undead mermaids and a strange, monstrous creature. That only strengthens Kate’s suspicion over Red, Julie’s neglectful boyfriend, and the necklace he gives to the girl. Somehow, the attack, Julie’s mysterious necklace, and her mother disappearance seem to connect with each other, forming a certain path which is still difficult to know where it leads. On the other hand, the Pack’s map keeps missing and the thief, Bran, is not easy to catch for his ability to disappear. Every clue she gets forces Kate to think that everything that happens has something to do with the flare, the gods Jessica worships, and Bran.
Here, we are introduced to the significant supporting characters that from this book on will help the story of the whole series develop. First we meet Andrea, Kate’s knight friend at the Order of Merciful Aid who has to hide her real self and identity from the world. She’s nothing like Kate, but she’s just as funny. As a beastkin shapeshifter, she’s described as beautiful and unusually pretty-shaped. Her beauty particularly attracts Raphael, one of the Pack and a werehyena. Just like Andrea is described as beautiful, Raphael is a handsome, gorgeous, heart-melting man with charm no one can resist. He is depicted as sly and slick, playboy and easy to get along with, but he is also a Mama’s boy, a nature that I don’t understand why he should have. Last but not least, Andrews introduce us to Julie, the street-kid orphan. I cannot say anything but that Julie is an average teenager, curious, stubborn, acting like she knows it all and in dire need of love and protection. What makes her interesting is that her presence puts Kate in a difficult position where she has to play parents when she herself is a troubled, stubborn kid.
Magic Burns has a better plot than that of Magic Bites, the flow of the entire narrative runs as smooth as silk, if I may say so. Starting from the hilarious opening, which then goes slowly to the introduction of the case, the storyline seems to snake its way through the detailed scenes and descriptions. The featuring side elements appear to be blended so completely into the main course of events that the reader won’t realize that those are fragments added to the narrative to take them to the climax. Kate’s and Curran’s relationship also develops in a nice and steady progress, stepping up a notch to the next level, though I cannot say it’s already romantic. What becomes a disappointment here in the second installment is that it does not have a magically great basic idea. I didn’t find the core of the story as interesting as the first, thus reading it didn’t get me excited. The battle scenes are also disappointing. They didn’t snatch my brain as I expected it to and left me thinking that it’s not an epic at all. The violence emanating from those scenes is not as strong as I found it in Magic Bites, but what really shocked me was the description of how great Kate’s craving for blood in the final battle scene. It is so obvious that Kate inherits her father’s bad blood, I know, but reading her killing people in cold blood was so horrifying.
All in all, I can say that I liked Magic Burns, despite its obvious weaknesses. The humor could still trigger my spontaneous laugh and very much entertain me. Even though I don’t really like the story, I love the way it is created and written into a narrative form. It has detailed characterizations as well, and the cooling-down ending is certainly Andrews’ biggest plus point here.