Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews
May 3, 2007
The first book by Ilona Andrews is on the darker side of urban fantasy. The main character is Kate Daniels, a mercenary with a mysterious past. She seems to prefer using physical force to magic and has an unhealthy habit of mouthing off to powerful people. Kate is more of a tough than a supernatural sleuth, she jokes that her investigative technique involves stirring things up until someone tries to kill her. In Magic Bites, Kate investigates the murder of her guardian. To find his killer, she jumps into a situation causing tension between an Atlanta necromancer group and the local shapechanger community.
In some ways the setting reminds me of Kim Harrison’s books, because public knowledge of magic and supernatural creatures has drastically changed everyday existence. But the world of Magic Bites is a grittier, more dangerous place than Rachel Morgan’s Hollows. The world constantly (and unpredictably) shifts between magic and tech. There are times when regular technology such as electricity and cars work well, and high magic times when they’re abandoned in favor of horses and enchanted lighting. It’s a nice twist because the characters need to be ready for action in either situation, and Andrews shows how society has changed to deal with the changes.
I enjoyed the story and will happily read a sequel. There were parts that could have been better, including some of the side characters and a fairly obvious red herring, but the setting is fantastic. And it’s really nice to have a butt-kicking heroine again instead of the usual female leads who, while good in their own ways, can only fight through magic or surrogates. I wouldn’t say this was a great novel, but it was a fun read and the series shows a lot of promise.