Since this is a few books into a series, there will be spoilers for the previous books in this review starting with the second paragraph.
Magic Slays is the fifth book in the Kate Daniels series written by Ilona Andrews, the pen name for a married couple who write together. The previous four books in this urban fantasy series are (in order): Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, and Magic Bleeds. There are seven books total planned for the series.
Now that Kate is no longer with the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, she’s struggling to get her own business off the ground. Unfortunately, she has no clients so she finds herself going in to the office day after day without a whole lot to keep her occupied.
That is, until the day Ghastek calls her to inform her that a vampire is loose and heading her way. Kate warns people in the area and heads out to prevent it from doing too much damage, leading to a run-in with some trigger-happy members of the PAD. In order to protect the People, who showed up to collect their wayward vampire, Kate brings them to her office. However, PAD refuses to go away until Andrea shows up and saves the day by flashing her Knight of the Order credentials.
While Andrea is advising Kate on weaponry, some members of the Red Guard come to visit. They have a problem and they want to hire Kate to work on a confidential case: the man they were guarding and the device he was developing were both taken. Examining the scene makes Kate believe the volhvs (Russian priests) are involved. She can’t go directly to them, so she seeks the help of the witch Evdokia, starting her on the path to learning of a devastating threat to a decent percentage of the population.
The Kate Daniels series has been at the top of my urban fantasy favorites list ever since reading the phenomenal third and fourth volumes. While I didn’t feel Magic Slays was quite as good as those two for various reasons, I did think it was still very good and better than the first two books. It also set up a lot for the final volumes, and it ended on a note that made me eager for the next book. It wasn’t quite a cliffhanger since the main storylines were wrapped up. However, the way it was wrapped up left me with some questions that are begging to be explored further and with the promise of a storyline from a previous book being followed up on very soon.
As a fan of the series, there was plenty to enjoy since reading Magic Slays was like catching up with old friends – finding out what happened to Andrea, seeing how Kate and Curran manage to not kill each other now that they are officially together, briefly catching up with Saiman and learning how Curran exacted his revenge, and spending some time with Derek. I love the uniqueness and diversity of the various characters, and I like that there’s focus given to friendships in addition to the central romantic relationship (which has matured since the last book). There were also some great new additions to this cast with this book’s focus on Russian mythology, which forced Kate to spend some time with Evdokia and the volhvs, who were quite hilarious together.
Kate also retains her trademark sense of humor which makes everything even more fun to read, such as her evaluation of one of the volvhs after noting his dark features and goatee:
The overall effect was decidedly villainous. He needed a black horse and a barbarian horde to lead. That or a crew of cutthroats, a ship with blood-red sails, and some knucklehead heroine to lust after. He would fit right into one of Andrea’s romance novels as some evil pirate captain. If he started stroking his beard, I’d have to kill him on principle. [pp. 126]
When he does indeed start stroking his goatee, Kate informs him:
You look like Rent-a-Villain. [pp. 127]
While this novel did have all the adventure, humor, mythology, and characters I’ve come to love, it did take this book a little longer to pick up the pace and it wasn’t until about one third of the way in that I was truly hooked. The very first page had me cracking up and there was some great dialogue within these pages, but there was no real fluidity to the storyline at first. It seemed to meander a bit from one event to another as it got the people that needed to be together in place and the main plotline going. The primary reasons I love these books are the mythology and learning more about Kate’s family and abilities. I fear the amount of this in the last two books may have spoiled me, and I wanted more about them. Once the main mythology became clear and the witch Evdokia told Kate a little more about her family history, I started to settle in and enjoy it. From this point on, I had a lot of fun with this book and the last third especially made it nearly impossible to put down.
In a lot of ways, it did still feel a lot like a setup book for the last two even once it got going. It brought up a problem with Kate’s eventual meeting with Roland, and then worked it out to provide a solution (a little too conveniently but I also suspect it will end up so interesting that I won’t care). While a lot did happen, it seemed to actively progress the overarching storyline less than the previous two books did since until the very end it didn’t seem to do much to move the book closer to the finale. After the appearance of Hugh in the third book and the fourth dealing so much with Kate’s aunt, the books had seemed to be moving Kate closer to Roland. In Magic Slays, there was very little that actually revealed more information about Kate’s abilities and Roland’s history (although there were some interesting tidbits about Kate’s mother and stepfather). One of the infodumps about Kate’s first relationship and how she had to be careful as Roland’s daughter was even the same story we’d already read before in another book in the series. What we did finally get for new information about Kate’s magic was pretty intense, though, and this book had one riveting conclusion that kept me on the edge of my seat. There are some serious implications for what happened at the end of this book and I simply cannot wait to see how they play out in the remaining two volumes.
Although I felt that Magic Slays was doing a lot to set up later books and could have been tighter in the first third, I did really enjoy reading it for all the reasons I love this series – the humor, mythology, characters, and action. After the last two books, I was hoping for more insight into Kate’s magic and Roland than there was initially, but what there was toward the end promises exciting times ahead. The last third of the book was phenomenal, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about what the ending means in the next book.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: I bought a signed copy!
Other Reviews of Magic Slays:
- Babbling About Books and More!
- Chachic’s Book Nook
- CSI: Librarian
- Fantasy Book Critic (includes review of “Magic Dreams,” a related story from the anthology Hexed)
- Lurv a la Mode
Reviews of other books in the Kate Daniels series: