Ilona Andrews
Magic Slays
Kate Daniels, Book #5

Review brought to you by Verushka

The husband and wife team that make up Ilona Andrews deliver another fast-paced, tightly written novel in the Kate Daniels series. While there is much to commend about their world-building, and their handling of the characters they have populated their world with, in this, the second book after Curran and Kate have become more permanent in their relationship, is not without serious flaws that ultimately detract from the book, and worse still, Kate.

First the good – this particular novel is a worthy addition to the series. It finds Kate living at the Pack Keep, trying to deal with: (not understanding) the importance of Pack politics, as Curran’s “wife”; worried about Cutting Edge, which hasn’t had business for a while and worrying about Julie and Andrea. As always, the authors give Kate a distinct, strong voice that is unique in urban fantasy and she is unapologetic in who she is. The case in this book is frightening for every species the authors have populated their world with – someone has built a bomb that destroys magic so shapeshifters, vampires, anything with any sort of magic is in danger of being destroyed. Kate is hired by the Red Guard, last seen in the previous book to find said inventor and instrument, and this part of the book is a fabulous adventure, taking Kate on a  trip into her mother’s past, and testing her like she hasn’t been before – through Julie. There is the emergence of something interesting and frightening at the end of the book for Kate that bodes well for future books in the series.

But where things do not sit well with me is Curran. When Kate is with Curran, everything else about her – her cases, her concerns for anyone else other than Curran (and in this case, Julie, who as her ward warrants constant worry) take an obvious backseat. For instance, the book begins with Andrea’s return after an absence that has worried Kate and beyond a couple of mentions in the beginning of the book, she is shifted offstage investigating leads of their case. In her stead, we get instead Kate waxing lyrical about Curran, bantering with Curran as he goes off in search of a renegade pack member, relaxing with Curran, and before the big battle playing dress-up with Curran as some sort of last-chance-before-we-could-possibly-die evening of wearing eveningwear. Yup, Kate dresses up, whoop-di-doo. Had Kate decided to deal with the danger of what was coming just being with Curran, with the Pack I would have understood it better than what comes off as an indulgent, long scene and a sharp jerk out of the tenseness of the overall case they are on.

Will the real Kate Daniels please stand up?

Curran is still a cliche in this book; the physical and character-antithesis to every other male character in the book, by necessity in order to stand out, I would guess. The issue is that every other male character? Is sharply written, lethal in their own way without needing to be as large than life as Curran. He takes over the book when he appears, and worse still he makes Kate a badly written Harelquin romance character (don’t get me started on the bad photoshop in the cover that screams “trashy romance novel”), which, yes, it’s an urban fantasy romance, but for me, and I suppose this is my fault and my own expectations, Kate was always more than that in the earlier books.

Andrea, who disappears in a pivotal moment in the book that has dire consequences for Julie, has no conversation with Kate about it; Aunt B who is part of the reason? Barely a blip. Derek, whose growth is fabulously written over the books, barely has a mention or a purpose in this book. Yet pages are devoted to arguing and bantering with Curran, highlighting Curran’s freakish possessiveness over her via Saiman, who remains one-dimensional for Curran’s benefit. The best bits of the book, were unfortunately the ones where Curran was absent, or merely a voice on the other end of a phone line.

There is an attempt to inject some angst through the book in Kate’s relationship with Curran, but that too is taken care of easily, and without any serious impact on their relationship at all – their honeymoon period never seems to end, in fact. I can appreciate the depth of love he has for Kate, I can, but when an out-of-character Kate is the result, problems arise. Their relationship isn’t tested in this book; the test is in fact Kate angsting over things without telling Curran anything until the end, in one conversation. How am I supposed to be invested in a relationship that is a relationship that does nothing for Kate as a whole? Am I expecting constant arguing and angsting? No, but a greater depth to their relationship, or to Curran might be in order, something that makes him more than the cliche he currently is. Unfortunately, I expect yet more moments where Curran (metaphorically) beats his chest and shows off just why Kate is his “woman”. Maybe he’ll graduate to destroying houses? lairs? Whatever is bigger than a collection of Saiman’s cars and can be destroyed to show off his masculinity.

It’s heartbreaking to find a stand-out urban fantasy female character de-evolve into something she has never been because of her love interest, and most especially when its obvious that the writers in question can write outstanding male characters, yet run headlong into cliches when they write Curran. It detracts from the book, from Kate especially and it’s why the tag of “romance novel” is all this series is will ever be the way its going. It’s a pity, for these writers are some of the best at the urban fantasy genre I’ve seen in a long time.