Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series is definitely getting better over time. As the story advances, the snarky, quirky heroine brings the reader to a new bloody adventure with a personal touch to the prevailing case. The development of the story is getting closer and closer to the point where Kate’s blood and magic are put precariously on the line. With more action, gory scenes, romance, and new characters involved, Magic Bleeds, the fourth in the series, becomes a stunning work of urban fantasy I’m sure nobody wants to miss.
Steel Mary, some kind of a deadly plague, spreads mercilessly across Atlanta and kills several shapeshifters. The outbreak of the epidemic happens just as some suspicious undead mages come to the city and run amok in prominent public places. As an agent now working for the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, Kate Daniels cannot just sit down and do nothing. Her sense of responsibility knocks her senseless and gets her into action. Only the case also involves Curran Lennart, the Beast Lord of Atlanta, the leader of the Pack and the king of all shapeshifters in the territory. It is no way that Kate wants to cooperate with a man who has just disappointed her and made her feel like a complete fool. But the unruly epidemic and the mysterious death befalling the shapeshifters need to be stopped, or else another one will die and the whole city will be covered in plagues, so a broken heart has to come second. A series of investigations and some digging into several myths involving plagues pull Kate deeper into the puzzling case, forcing her to once again deal with her secret blood and magic. When everything starts to be crystal clear, it turns out that the enemy she has to fight and kill is someone up from her own lineage, someone of her blood and magic, Erra. Their blood relationship complicates the case even more, making Kate have to decide to choose her own family, or the people she cares about and the one she loves.
Here in the fourth installment, Ilona Andrews decides to show Kate Daniels’ emotional weaknesses and vulnerability. She may look so tough, strong and sturdy, snarky and funny, headstrong and decisive on the outside, but when it comes to love, she’s not different from any other persons, or women for that matter. She has a soft spot, whether she likes it or not, refuses it or not. She does cry, and is unable to shove away the insecurity within her. Reading her character from book one to four, I can finally conclude that Kate Daniels is really a natural person, someone whom you may or may not like, someone who may or may not be good or bad. But the most shocking character in Magic Bleeds, to me, is definitely Saiman. Saiman is never a likeable person from the very first time. He’s always described as arrogant, deceitful, snobbish, mean, vengeful, and, above all, a disgusting pervert. But in one particular dialogue with Kate, he says something very interesting about humanity:
“Being human in our world is synonymous with being included into the framework of society. Humanity entitles one to certain rights and privileges, but also implies voluntary acceptance of laws and rules of conduct. It transcends mere biology. It’s a choice and therefore belongs solely to the individual. In essence, if a person feels they are human, then they are.”
I never thought, during my time reading Kate Daniels series up to this point, that a character like Saiman could say something so human and basic. It’s so astounding. And it just goes to show Andrews’ commitment to create completely human characters.
The plot of Magic Bleeds is considerably longer than the previous numbers, running a little bit slow at the beginning and then feeling steadily fast right after the first half of the book. And even after the conclusion of the case, there is still some problem to solve, draining more and more the reader’s emotions and energy to finish it. The epilogue is, luckily, as cooling-down as ever and is the real turning point in Kate’s and Curran’s relationship. I would say that the whole package of the narrative is wonderful, with its plus and minus points that don’t necessarily have to spark any arguments. I will not say that I like to take a very long journey to finish a book, but in this case, I didn’t mind because the after-reading result was so satisfying. Andrews add just the right amount of romanticism, stick to the same quantity of humor, and increase the violence and the bloody scenes to a necessary level, although they made me weak in the knees at some point. The use of the Jewish mythology and stories from Bible is very much interesting, blended very well into the core idea of the story. I don’t know anything about both, I must admit, so I’m not in a position to say whether they’re correctly used or not. But one thing I’m sure of, Magic Bleeds has all the positive aspects of the three previous installments combined.
Overall, Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bleeds is truly a great read. I liked the idea, the plot, however long it might be, the strong narrative, the romantic aspect. The characters are more complex as well. So, I dare say that this book is really recommended.