RogerBW's Blog

Iron and Magic, Ilona Andrews 02 September 2019

2018 modern fantasy, first in a planned series spun off from the main Kate Daniels series. Hugh d'Ambray was the warlord of the demigod Roland, but was cast out for failure; he'd be crawling into a bottle, but his men need him. Elara Harper leads an outcast community that needs soldiers, and could offer shelter and employment. But both of them are known for betraying their allies. How can they make this alliance look credible to their enemies?

Yup, it's that old romance trope the forced marriage, because in spite of its occasional technological trappings this is a world in which public demonstrations of personal loyalty are an important way of getting stuff done.

Hugh was, of course, one of the major enemies in the main Kate Daniels narrative, and has to be rehabilitated into something like heroism; he's still not a nice person, and his reputation for being a bloody-handed butcher is more inconvenient than usefully terrifying, but there's an effective description of how someone who has trained himself never to think disloyal thoughts can start to expand into being fully human again.

Elara is more of an enigma, and most of the questions about her and her people aren't answered in this volume, but the same basic pattern of power and temptation is there; this is something of an Andrews theme, the hero/ine who's reluctant to fix an immediate problem with brute power because that would just make bigger problems worse, so they have to be clever instead.

There's effective sniping between the pair, and if I'm not entirely convinced by their reasons for not admitting that they're falling for each other, they're at least plausible in context (each of them has reasons to regard this as a weakness). The constant sniping would get tedious, except that there is that undercurrent of affection, and pulling in a third direction an acceptance that whatever they think of each other they both know they have to work together to keep their people alive. This is a very hard balance to get right, and once again the Ilona Andrews collective has managed it.

And of course there's an external threat, which can be hidden from for a while, but sooner or later it's going to come down to a big battle against overwhelming odds. The battlefield technology of this world doesn't always make much sense, but hey, it's magic, and at least it's consistent about what it can achieve; and the battle scenes are effectively written to combine tension with a clear depiction of what's going on where.

Bring the cows.

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Previous in series: Magic Binds | Series: Kate Daniels | Next in series: Magic Triumphs

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