Magic Bleeds is the newest installment in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, a married couple who write together. It is the fourth book following Magic Bites, Magic Burns and Magic Strikes, which are best read in that order. There is also a related novella with a different main protagonist, Magic Mourns, in the anthology Must Love Hellhounds.
Note: There will be spoilers for the first three books in this series in this review – really big ones such as how Magic Strikes ends. This applies to the entire review, not just the plot description.
Although it is the end of Kate’s shift working for the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, she is called to look into an emergency situation when a fight breaks out at a bar. The Steel Horse is not just any bar since it exists on the border between the Pack of shapeshifters and the People, part of a company/research facility of necromancers. It’s one of the few places where the two gather and behave in a civil manner, and neither one is given to drinking much in order to stay in control – the Pack over their beast nature and the People over the vampires that will rip all in sight to shreds if they’re not being careful. Due to the presence of these two dangerous factions, Kate has to wonder at the type of person who would dare attack someone there:
Who the hell would attack the Steel Horse anyway? What was the thinking behind that? “Here is a bar full of psychotic killers who grow giant claws and people who pilot the undead for a living. I think I’ll go wreck the place.” [pp. 10]
However, it’s her job and she is enticed with promises of cookies so she heads over to check it out.
What she finds there is even worse than Kate had anticipated – the dead body of a man is pinned to a pole by a crowbar. Further examination reveals the corpse is infested with a living, intelligent disease that must be contained quickly. Once Biohazard takes care of the potential plague and clears Kate as being uninfected, she does some questioning but the main clue is that a man in a cloak was the instigator. Thus begins the case of the “Steel Mary,” which Kate throws herself into as she tries to forget about Curran, who recently stood her up.
Each book in this series has been better than the last, and Magic Strikes was so excellent that it was going to be difficult just to match it. Magic Bleeds did take longer than the third book in the series to really hook me, but once it got going it had everything I loved about the previous installment – great character interactions, lots of action, humorous dialogue and occurrences, a strong mythological basis outside of the ordinary, so many memorable moments and lots of references to The Princess Bride (and other literature but mainly The Princess Bride). It was one of those books that had me rereading parts I just read before moving on, and I didn’t want it to be over. At times heart-wrenching, at times heartwarming, it was very emotionally gripping.
When I say it took me longer to get absorbed in this one, it was probably largely due to impatience because it was immediately interesting. It’s just that so much happened at the end of Magic Strikes and I really wanted to see how all that played out. Plus I found it a little disconcerting that so little seemed to have changed after all that had happened at the end of that novel. Kate destroyed Roland’s sword in front of an arena full of people, including Roland’s own personal warlord who has to know exactly what that means, and she’s just continuing on with her life working for the Order as if nothing happened? She hasn’t had to go into hiding or been hunted down? This didn’t make a lot of sense to me at first, but this concern was addressed and it seemed perfectly logical later.
Not much may have seemed different toward the beginning, but there were a lot of big changes by the end. It was not at all predictable and a lot of events were ones I did not see coming at all – and so many of them were so very satisfying to read about. It felt like the overall story arc was concluded, but it also had little mysteries that leave one wondering what will happen in the next book. I particularly love how slowly information about Roland has been revealed with little bits and pieces that leave one theorizing about just who he is (I have my suspicions, especially after reading the story of the first vampire).
Although I would never say it crossed the line from urban fantasy into paranormal romance, this is more relationship-oriented than the other books in the series since Kate and Curran face their own relationship. When reading this one, it really struck me just how perfect Kate and Curran could be together – they are both so stubborn and set in their ways. If one of them is going to be with someone else, that someone had better be just as hardheaded. Curran needs to let go of his protectiveness and belief that it’s his way or no way, and Kate needs to do the same to a certain extent. They clash so much because of their personalities, but neither one could be with anyone less aggressive without walking all over that person. If they care enough to compromise, both of them would probably be better off because of it.
As with the previous installment, there was some info dumping. There seems to actually be more of this as the series continues, probably because a lot of this is to explain events that happened in the earlier books. Even so, the overall quality has been increasing not decreasing so I’m not going to complain too much about the more frequent stops to fill in readers unfamiliar with previous installments.
Magic Bleeds is another strong addition to the series that manages to uphold the same high standard set by Magic Strikes. Each book delves a little further into Kate’s past as it comes to affect her present. This one discloses even more than the last, but it also manages to remain delightfully suspenseful by not giving too much away. Ilona Andrews continues to excel at balancing character and plot with a good dose of humor while slowly unraveling and advancing the storyline.
My Rating: 9/10
Where I got my reading copy: I bought it after refusing to begin another book on the bus ride home from Book Expo America – because no other book would do after finishing Magic Strikes.
Reviews of other books in this series: