Magic Strikes can be said to be the turning point in Kate Daniels series, where every aspect in the package improves significantly, the narrative, the plot, the basic idea, the use and the description of the myth, the characterizations. I cannot say that this is the best so far, but one thing that I’m sure of is that Ilona Andrews have put a lot of effort to get their third installment of the series better than the first two, and it proves to be so.
Once again, Kate Daniels has to face a great challenge when Derek, one of her shapeshifter friends, is found almost dead with a broken body and an injured face, unfortunately without his Lyc-V being able to regenerate both. No one knows who’s done it. The mysterious case swirling around the young werewolf becomes ever so complicated when Jim keeps a secret about something that the Beast Lord doesn’t even know. As it happens, that something turns out to be a violation of the Pack Law Jim and Derek do on purpose, which results in Derek nearly losing his life. Kate can’t help but plunge herself into dangerous, deadly fights in the middle of Midnight Games arena, where she and the Pack’s shapeshifters have to deal with powerful rakshasas armed by Sultan of Death. The presence of Hugh d’Ambray, Roland’s Warlord, in the arena to watch the fights and make sure the rakshasas win and kill all the Pack’s members involved makes Kate wonder who actually Sultan of Death is. Hugh himself always keeps an eye on Kate, suspicious of her blood and lineage. Kate, who has always been keeping her blood and magic a secret, finally has to reveal her real identity for the sake of her friends.
Kate Daniels readers must have known Jim from the first and the second installments, but here his character and appearance, in my opinion, stand out more than before. It might be for the mistake he makes and the heavy burden of responsibility he tries to bear on his own shoulder upon which the entire story is based. He does everything in his power to mend his past mistakes, and Curran describes him as a responsible person who will not take his failure at doing his duty easily, even if he has to betray his boss and best friend.
Interestingly, it’s not only Jim whose character gets elaborated more through his deed and decisions, Raphael and Derek also make more appearances with their own conflicts and behaviors. Despite his lack of action and dialogues along 1/3 of the book, Derek’s character looks clearer by what he’s done and the subtle description of his emotion. He seems a very sentimental young man, and willing to do anything in order to be taken seriously as a grown-up man. But it’s Raphael who really captured my attention. I found him funny and romantic, but not in a cheesy way. Not that it is surprising, since it’s been very clear from the start that he has an undoubted ability to snatch a woman’s heart in a way that you cannot resist.
As I’ve said earlier, Magic Strikes is way better than its two predecessors. It has a more interesting case, a denser plot without being too hasty in its run to the climax, and the narrative develops just in the right progress and doesn’t seem like Andrews force it to unfold the way it does. No wonder this book is thicker than the first two. The series of battle scenes is arranged steadily to bring the reader to the bloody, thrilling climax that is guaranteed to make them gasp and heady at the same time. Those scenes, and the violence emanating from them, are so much better and more detailed, bloodier if I may add. The way to the end of the book, including the epilogue, is very well executed, too, with a cooling-down scene to make the reader grin as always. So narratively, I can say that Magic Strikes is so much better written. Linguistically, it still bears the Andrews’ typical writing style: coarse but fun, witty and snarky, blatant and straightforward, yet some of their sentences are a bit dramatic. It is understandable, though, looking at the sad scenes they insert at some points. Most interestingly, Kate’s and Curran’s love story starts to hike up to another level, and so does Andrea’s and Raphael’s. But I’m not going to talk about it further, because there are some strange scenes that become my concern. I find it confusing when Kate doesn’t seem to recognize Raphael as Aunt B’s son who carries a shotgun in the first book, and thus Raphael has to remind her of that. What’s more, there’s a certain scene that I am sure taking place in Jim’s safe house, but when Dali, the Pack’s Asian mythology expert, comes to said scene the setting suddenly changes into Kate’s apartment. This is just not right. Or did I miss something?
Overall, Magic Strikes is actually a very great work of fiction. It has everything a reader needs to satisfy their reading thirst. Had it not had holes in its plot, I would’ve given it a better rating. But I couldn’t, because a clear course of events is important to me.