Magic Breaks is the seventh book in the Kate Daniels series by #1 New York Times bestselling author(s) Ilona Andrews (Ilona Andrews is not a single person but a married couple). Right now, a total of 10 books in the series is planned, and there is currently another related novel about Kate’s best friend Andrea (Gunmetal Magic) as well as a variety of novellas and short stories. Magic Breaks is the first of these books to be released in hardcover, and it includes a character list, a section from the journal of Barabas, and a short story about Julie titled “Magic Tests.”
The Kate Daniels series should be read in order. The previous six books in the series are as follows:
- Magic Bites (Review)
- Magic Burns (Review)
- Magic Strikes (Review)
- Magic Bleeds (Review)
- Magic Slays (Review)
- Magic Rises (Review)
This review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the series.
As Christmas nears, Kate and Curran are planning to spend a couple of weeks alone, but first Curran must leave for a few days on some Pack business. Coincidentally, his timing means that Kate will have to deal with the Conclave, one of the regularly scheduled meetings between the Pack and the People in which they discuss various issues and attempt to keep the peace. Curran reassures Kate that this meeting will go quickly and smoothly: there have been no major problems involving both communities lately and no one will be eager to create trouble with the holidays approaching.
At first, Curran’s prediction seems correct. Everyone at the Conclave is bored as one of the People insists on making a huge deal out of a minor matter—but their boredom ends when an unexpected visitor arrives with the freshly-killed corpse of Mulradin, one of the current co-leaders of the People. The body was obviously mauled by a shapeshifter, and tensions rise when it is suggested a Pack member must be responsible for this murder. Kate is given until noon the next day to learn the killer’s identity and bring him or her before the People or they will declare war against the Pack while many of their strongest are away—and a comment about this chaos being “his will” alerts her to the possibility that she may soon be confronting Roland.
I consider Kate Daniels to be the epitome of an excellent series. It’s my favorite urban fantasy, and the authors have done an amazing job building the story arc and bringing their characters to life in a memorable way. Kate’s character growth is well done, and I love how her past has such a deep impact on her present. She also has an amusing narrative voice that comes across as being more natural than a lot of snarky first person narratives I’ve read, and the dialogue with the other characters is rather entertaining. While Kate is the most interesting of the characters, the secondary characters are also vividly drawn and lifelike.
Fantastic characters are not the only reason to read this series, though. Even though action scenes normally bore me, I find myself riveted by the ones in these books since they are exciting and powerfully emotional, often important to the characters for more than just their survival. The story arc and the gradual revelation of Kate’s parentage and history are well-paced and fascinating, and many of the most intense moments in these books have involved Kate’s tie to Roland in some way—even though he had never actually appeared in any of the books before this one. Ilona Andrews has not kept the fact that Roland makes an appearance in this installment a secret, and knowing this, I was particularly excited about this volume. I’m sad to admit I was a little disappointed in it. While I did ultimately enjoy it, I thought it fell short when compared to most of the other books in the series, and it certainly didn’t hold my interest nearly as well as Magic Strikes, Magic Bleeds, or Magic Rises.
One reason I didn’t love Magic Breaks as much as I’d expected was that it was unevenly paced. The first couple of chapters were slow, but then there was an exciting scene with an interesting revelation. I expected that it would pick up from that point forward, but then it was dull for awhile as Kate and company wandered around searching for someone with information. There was a lot of discussion during this meandering that I found lackluster. Although more action happened eventually, these were not the riveting, emotionally charged scenes I remember from other volumes in the series. In one case, I think that’s because Kate was a spectator instead of a participant in the action, and I also felt that a recurring problem with this book was obstacles for the main character being removed too easily. For instance, Kate had to make a choice, but she was suddenly saved from the consequences of her choice at the last minute. There were minor consequences in that it had an affect on how others viewed her, but she still didn’t have to own it. This was not the only time that there was a problem that was resolved very quickly and conveniently.
I also thought the characterization and dialogue did not meet the standard set by the rest of the series. It seemed as though a lot of the character developments were handled through lifeless conversations in which the character revealed information through a long description of their backstory or feelings. Kate’s thoughts also consisted of a lot of heavy-handed telling that did not seem very natural, and there was not much subtlety. In addition to being clunky at times, the dialogue was not as quotable as it normally is. There were a few good lines, but there were none that demanded I go back and read it again.
That’s not to say there are no phenomenal scenes. The last 50 pages of the book are spectacular, although I did think that part of the book was too quickly paced since a lot happens in a short span. The issues I had with the book were not with Roland nor anyone associated with him since these were the better parts of the book (even if I did think some scenes lacked the tension that is normally present in books in this series). However, I did have one major issue with believability that is not a situation I can discuss without major spoilers.
I enjoyed Magic Breaks since it does have a great ending and some compelling scenes, but… I didn’t love Magic Breaks. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think it is the weakest book in the entire series. There were certainly some interesting developments, but it had problems with the pacing of the storyline, characterization, and dialogue, plus I now have trouble believing how parts of the story unfolded. Most of all, it lacked the emotional intensity that usually has me rereading scenes in these books, and it’s not that memorable to me despite having major events. However, I would encourage fans of the series to read it anyway—I’m still glad I read it even if it’s not one of my favorite books in the series and most people seem to have loved this book a lot more than I did.
My Rating: 6.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.