RogerBW's Blog

Magic Rises, Ilona Andrews 04 August 2019

2013 modern fantasy, sixth in the Kate Daniels series. Curran is called to Abkhazia, ancient Colchis, to mediate in a dispute between three shapeshifter packs. It's obviously a trap. But the bait is really tempting…

Of course, there are multiple levels of trap going on here, and some of them won't be apparent until quite a way into the story. But the elephant in the room is that, in the urban fantasy tradition that I'd hoped this novel had avoided, there's a lack of trust between the leads that causes major difficulties. It doesn't feel in keeping with the characters as they've been presented to us in the previous books, and it does feel lazy, an extra obstacle in a book that's already pretty tough and grim. (Good guys have often died in these books, but now we've had a chance to get to know more of them.)

And it doesn't really help that the triumph of the good guys – that's not a spoiler, that's what happens in these books – is basically the result of operating by fairy-story rules, specifically the one about always being nice to people no matter how insignificant because they might turn out to have the plot tokens you need later in the story. Yes, all right, it means the success is because of who the protagonists are rather than how sharp their swords and claws and things are, but it still feels random and unearned.

The problem is, the first thing spoils a lot of the small-scale action, and the second thing spoils a lot of the large-scale plot, at least in retrospect. Which means that the stuff I like about these books is being squeezed in the middle, because just as it's starting it's time for more relationship angst, or time for something good to happen just because Kate has acted like a decent person.

On the other hand we get some great worldbuilding, and the groundwork is still being laid for the climactic confrontation of the series (while making it clear that it's not simply going to be a stand-up fight between Kate and you-know-who). The multiple layers of plots, with the plotters above really not caring about what the ones below get up to, work very well. And when Kate's able to break from the angst and do her job of being a badass, she's as enjoyable as ever.

"A young djigit stopped by my room," I said. "His name is Volodja and for three thousand dollars he will walk me deep into the mountains and show me where the bad shapeshifters live."

"How fortunate." Aunt B's eyes lit up. "Would you like some company for this wonderful trap, I mean, adventure?"

A poor entry in this series is still a pretty good book, but this one was my biggest disappointment so far.

A side note: the short piece An Ill-Advised Rescue is material cut from the main novel, but then added at the end of my copy. It happens before the main book, so if you're at all interested in the short fiction I'd recommend reading it before the novel.

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