Magic Rises is the sixth book in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. The book includes a short story, “An Ill-Advised Rescue,” that takes place before events in Magic Rises. I went to the end of the book and read it first as advised on the Acknowledgments page, but I was unsure about how it tied in with the novel before reading it and whether or not I really wanted to follow that suggestion. It is set before the beginning of Magic Rises, and it just fills in the backstory on an event involving Saiman that is referenced. You won’t miss anything important if you do skip it or read it after the novel since the novel supplies the basic details on what happened.
The novels in the Kate Daniels series definitely should be read in order. The previous books in the series are as follows:
- Magic Bites (Review)
- Magic Burns (Review)
- Magic Strikes (Review)
- Magic Bleeds (Review)
- Magic Slays (Review)
This series was originally supposed to contain 7 novels, but it is now supposed to contain 10. There are also several related shorter stories, and a novel about Kate’s friend Andrea, Gunmetal Magic, was released last year. Gunmetal Magic does take place between the end of Magic Slays and Magic Rises, but it’s not necessary to read it before Magic Rises.
There will be spoilers for previous books in the series in this review starting after the line below. If you have not read the previous five books and dislike spoilers, you will not want to read this review. I do highly recommend this series and think it’s the very best urban fantasy series I have read. If you aren’t completely won over by the first book, don’t let that deter you from reading more, though. Book three is where everything really starts to come together and it pays off in a BIG way!
A common tragedy that befalls shapeshifters is their children dying before reaching adulthood. Approximately 25% of these young shapeshifters go loup, losing control to the Lyc-V virus and becoming so violent toward others they need to be put down. Once a shapeshifter gets to this point, there is no returning to their former selves—unless one happens to be in possession of panacea, a difficult-to-obtain drug produced in Europe that sometimes cures loupism. When Kate and Curran are offered the opportunity to travel to Europe to perform a job in return for panacea, they cannot turn down a medicine that would so greatly benefit their Pack, even though it’s quite obvious to both of them that they’ll be walking right into a trap.
They’ve been asked to be a neutral third party in a dispute involving a young woman, her father, and the two fathers of her unborn children. Desandra, the young woman, has been used as a pawn by her father Jarek, who once tried to “gift” her to Curran himself. Her father eventually married her off to a man belonging to a pack in the Ukraine, but once the marriage was no longer convenient for him, he had her divorce her husband and marry an Italian shapeshifter. Recently, the Italian pack angered him and he decided Desandra should no longer be with them, either.
Unfortunately for him, this was after he promised a sought-after mountain pass to his daughter’s firstborn. His distraught daughter slept with both her current husband and her ex-husband, and became pregnant with twins—one fathered by each of the men. Jarek made it clear that he’d rather his daughter die than see the pack from Italy possess his mountain pass, and there’s concern that he may try to kill her himself. In addition, both packs desire that pass. Kate and Curran’s role is to guard Desandra until her children are born, and witness which is born first, putting the newborn’s family in control of this excellent mountain pass. They gather their best people and head to Europe to do just this—despite being under no illusion whatsoever that it’s incredibly fishy that their presence was requested rather than a closer neutral third party.
The Kate Daniels series is the one I would urge someone to read if they were only going to read one urban fantasy series. The first book intrigued me without managing to hook me, but I enjoyed the second one more. The third book is perhaps the finest urban fantasy story I’ve ever read, and it made me an enthusiastic fan of the series for its great pacing, sense of humor, action-packed scenes, characters and characterization, incorporation of myths, and the way it built up and metered out revelations about Kate’s family history. The fourth one started a little slower, but I enjoyed it nearly as much since it did have many of the same qualities I enjoyed about the third book, and it also dealt more with the arc about Kate’s family. After books three and four built upon the revelations about Kate so well, I admit to being a little disappointed that book five largely ignored them only to hint at returning to a related storyline at the very end. I started Magic Rises with some trepidation since it seemed to be setting up an unrelated story, and I thought it was entirely possible this book may ignore all story threads related to Roland since I knew it was no longer the next-to-last book and the urgency to develop this story arc may no longer be there.
I need not have worried: what appears to be a random side adventure turns into more than that. While it doesn’t feel like the next-to-last book (thankfully since that is no longer the case!) it also does build on this underlying storyline like books three and four did. As a result, I loved it as much as these two books in the series despite feeling it wasn’t quite as good in some ways. There were times this novel reminded me of a soap opera, mainly the reason for Kate and Curran’s trip to Europe (twins by an estranged husband and ex-husband with the firstborn deciding the fate of two families!) and some relationship drama. I also wasn’t as captivated by the world mythology as I was in the third and fourth books, but everything else was done right—the humor, the pacing, the action, the characters, and the riveting conclusion. I was never bored for an instant, and the second half especially was very intense.
Normally, I find fight scenes extremely dull, but Ilona Andrews has a gift for writing gripping fight scenes that I can’t get enough of (Magic Strikes was the same way). They’re exciting scenes, but at the same time they tend to tie in with characterizing Kate and showcasing her abilities, and the way action is blended with dealing with either her character or abilities is a winning combination.
On the subject of Kate’s character, one of the things I love so much about this series is that Kate’s past shapes her character and I understand her well because of it. She’s only recently found a place to belong after spending her entire life alone, with one purpose: hide who she is and what she can do long enough to defeat Roland. Friendship, love, and belonging are not things she ever expected to have, and trusting people goes completely against her training. She also had a difficult time becoming part of the Pack because of her fear of becoming a liability to others because of her status of the daughter of Roland. Kate overcame all of it and fought tooth and nail to become the Pack’s Consort, yet others are unable to see her as being worthy of that place due to her humanity. She is not a shapeshifter and cannot truly understand their ways, and there’s still so much she doesn’t know that is basic shapeshifter knowledge. Some wonder how can she ever be a suitable mate for Curran when she’s not truly like him. After the lengths she took to become Consort, what Kate faced in this book from other shapeshifters, including Curran’s odd behavior, was devastating.
The plot itself—oh wow, it’s up to us to go to Europe and deal with these two Packs by making sure this pregnant woman and her twins of two fathers survive and settle this dispute about who gets control of this mountain pass!—was really quite outlandish. It was a great relief to me that Kate and Curran realized this had to be some sort of trap because otherwise I would have spent the whole book thinking it didn’t make sense that they specifically were called upon to do this. As it is, the story of Desandra being impregnated by both her current husband and her ex-husband and her father claiming the family of the firstborn would have access to the pass was like something out of a soap opera. Now that I think of it, so were Kate and Curran’s relationship issues, though I at least thought the lack of communication made some sense since Kate had a job to do and was often unavailable to ask Curran what he was thinking.
Fortunately, so much was done well that I really didn’t think about any flaws while reading it because it was so thoroughly enjoyable to read. It did have the trademark Ilona Andrews humor, and I think their humor hits the mark exactly. It comes across as a natural part of Kate’s personality, not as an overdone attempt at adding some humor to the oft-dark novel. As mentioned, the fight scenes and Kate’s character are very well done. Plus, all the secondary characters even have their own traits and personalities and stand out as individuals, and I was delighted by how interesting I found one of the more prominent ones in this book. Ilona Andrews does know how to write intriguing characters.
In some ways, Magic Rises isn’t technically the strongest installment in the Kate Daniels series since it does have an out-of-left-field dramatic plot and I thought the mythological components were better done in other books in the series. Yet, I didn’t notice any of this while reading it because I found this book far more gripping than the vast majority of books I read due to its strengths, and I had every bit as much fun reading it as the fourth book in the series. Ilona Andrews know how to deliver when it comes to building up story arcs and characters, and I also really love the blend between darkness and humor. The ending is particularly intense, and I’m now salivating for book 7 (especially after reading some hints of what is to come on the author’s website!).
My Rating: 9/10
Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.
Other Reviews of Magic Rises: