Magic Strikes is the third book in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, the pseudonym for a husband and wife who write novels together. Currently, there are four books out of a contracted seven available. The books in this urban fantasy series are in order as follows: Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes and Magic Bleeds. There is also a novella that takes place between the third and fourth books called Magic Mourns in the collection Must Love Hellhounds about Kate’s friend Andrea.
Note: Since this is the third book in a series, there will be spoilers for the previous books.
Magic Strikes picks up about two months after the end of the second book. During these two months, there has been no magic until a couple of days ago. Then the magic came back in full swing, leaving Kate with no time to sleep as she and the rest of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid are dealing with an influx of supernatural creatures such as tatzelwyrms and two-headed serpents. After rescuing an old lady/harpy from a telephone pole, Kate cannot wait to go home and finally get to eat and rest. Unfortunately for Kate, as soon as she begins dreaming of her last slice of pie, she’s called to go check on a situation involving a dead shapeshifter from the Pack. Although she dutifully arrives on the scene, she is told by Jim, the head of Pack security as well as her old mercenary partner, that it is Pack business and they do not want her help with the matter.
Soon after she gets a chance to go home and eat dinner, Kate discovers Jim is not her only friend from the Pack acting strangely – Saiman calls her to let her know he caught Derek trying to steal his tickets to the Midnight Games, illegal arena-style fights. He is willing to release Derek to Kate and ignore the whole incident but only on the condition that she accompany him to the Midnight Games. Kate agrees, and Derek requests that she give a letter to a woman at the games after securing her promise that she will not read the note. Against her better judgment, Kate keeps her word, but after her one visit to the games she learns some of the Pack members are involved in a huge mess.
The first book in this series was decent and the next one was even better, but Magic Strikes made me a Kate Daniels addict. Each of these books builds on the last and this one was riveting from start to finish. It’s a relatively short book but it manages to fit a lot in while maintaining a great balance between plot/action and character development/interaction.
This is a wonderful addition to the series because it is just so satisfying. At this point, Kate has become a sympathetic, fleshed out character – those glimpses of the fear hiding behind her smart comments in the first book have become more frequent and the more that is revealed about her past, the easier she is to understand. With each book, Kate seems to open up to the people around her more and let them in. This is reflected in her voice as she also seems to be letting down her guard somewhat regarding what information she discloses to readers through her narrative. With each novel, more of her history is told and this book explains some parts that really made one curious, including the mystery surrounding Kate’s blood. Yet it also opens up more questions to theorize about instead of wrapping everything up.
In spite of her increasing ability to become close to others, Kate doesn’t completely let go when it seems practical to do so which makes her growth seem more realistic. Although she has a best friend in Andrea now and seems very close to Julie and Derek, she is still very conflicted when it comes to Curran – and with good reason. Although she is attracted to him, she doesn’t want to become just another woman Curran becomes bored with. There are more scenes with Curran in this book than the previous two and their banter and Kate’s reactions to him are quite hilarious. Even with the increased focus on their relationship, they were spread out very well throughout the rest of the story so it never felt like too much emphasis was placed on it. All the characters who appear are wonderful to read about and the parts with Saiman and Kate are nearly as good as the parts with Curran (and we do learn more about Saiman in this book). There are some good moments with Andrea as well, especially one particular important one toward the end that says a lot about Kate’s growth since we first met her.
With the storyline dealing with the Midnight Games, there were even more fights than usual in this novel. Often I find reading about battles bores me, but every single one had me on the edge of my seat. Reading them through Kate’s eyes shades it with her humor, and there’s so much tension when she’s personally involved. Previous installments have shown that not everything always turns out rosy for all involved at the end, and although she is powerful, Kate is also written the way a powerful heroine should be – she is not invincible. There is still a sense of danger because she’s not the only one in the universe who has power, and she does get seriously injured quite often. She’s still young and inexperienced in some ways and has had to work for a lot of her skill, particularly with her sword.
Like the previous installment, this one has a plot involving mythology. It’s a type of world myth that isn’t explored as often as many, and the author seems to be trying to avoid the pitfall of overusing too much of the familiar. I had to laugh when Dali mentioned Jupiter to Jim during an explanation of the mythology:
“The Roman god?” Jim frowned.
“No, the planet. Honestly, Jim the world doesn’t revolve around the Greco-Roman pantheon.” [pp. 186]
My one complaint would be that there are some infodumps, especially toward the beginning. However, between reading them from Kate’s perspective and the strength of the rest of the book, it wasn’t that bothersome.
Magic Strikes started out strong, remained engaging through the middle and had a fantastic conclusion that showed a lot about Kate and how far she’s come since the first book. Plot and characterization are well-balanced throughout and nearly every single scene is memorable and entertaining.
My Rating: 9/10
Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.
Reviews of other books in this series: