Magic Shifts is the eighth book in the Kate Daniels series by #1 New York Times bestselling author(s) Ilona Andrews. The Kate Daniels series is my favorite urban fantasy series—and one of my favorite ongoing series period—at the moment because of the wonderful characters, entertaining and hilarious dialogue, incorporation of different mythologies, and the incredible build of both Kate’s character development and the history of her family and past. Magic Shifts is not the most momentous book in the series nor one of the better ones, but it is an entertaining story that has much of what I’ve come to love about these books.
This review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the series, which should definitely be read in order beginning with Magic Bites.
While their lives are still far from quiet, Kate and Curran have been enjoying the privacy and freedom that came with their separation from the Pack. Now they can do whatever they want without the impediment of Pack politics, and they can go home and be left alone at the end of the day. However, they can’t escape their old life completely, and their lives become a lot more hectic when they come home one night to find George waiting for them with an urgent case: Eduardo is missing and she is hoping Kate can find him.
George and Eduardo want to get married, but George’s father does not approve of his daughter marrying a man who is not also a werebear. When Eduardo disappeared he was perfectly happy to let him remain missing, and the new Beast Lord can’t get involved if an alpha of Eduardo’s clan doesn’t want his help. Seeking Kate and Curran’s aid is a sticky matter since they’re supposed to avoid any possible interference with the Pack for another month, but George is desperate and of course they’ll figure out a way to help a friend in a difficult spot, beginning with a visit to the last place Eduardo may have been seen. After Kate and Curran track his last job at the Guild to a giant tick trying to kill some cats, they visit the owner’s house only to find something far more deadly—and a trail leading to an even more powerful enemy craving vengeance.
It was with some trepidation that I began reading Magic Shifts. The seventh book contained a major event that the series had been leading up to for a long time: the appearance of Kate’s villainous father Roland. Yet, despite being a momentous book in the series, Magic Breaks was my least favorite of all the Kate Daniels books. While there were some phenomenal scenes and Roland himself met my expectations, I found it unevenly paced and outright dull at times without the sparkling dialogue and excellent characterization I’ve come to expect from this series, and I don’t think parts of the story make sense anymore. I can believe that Kate may not have heard an entirely accurate recounting of past events. I can believe that Roland, despite his vast power, is still subject to human whims and changing his mind. What I absolutely, positively cannot believe is that someone as powerful as Roland is shown to be would have ever attempted to kill Kate (or just about anyone) in the past and failed. That’s going to continue to bother me until there is a convincing explanation for either why he did not succeed or why he lied when he said that yes, he did in fact try to murder her.
While this book did not offer a convincing explanation (and actually just made me even more certain that if Roland wanted to kill someone they’d be dead), I did enjoy Magic Shifts much more than the previous book in the series. The pacing was much better, and the dialogue and narrative were imbued with humor and personality. It wasn’t even close to my favorite book in the series—it wasn’t as amazing as Magic Strikes or Magic Bleeds, and I also much preferred Magic Rises because Hugh—but it was closer to the quality I’ve come to expect from the Kate Daniels books. I thought it was nearly as good as Magic Slays, and like that book, the main story is largely filler but is also entertaining—and sows the seeds for events to come that will tie into the bigger arc.
One aspect of this series I enjoy is the way the authors weave in mythology, often including myths that are not the more common ones explored in fantasy. More recent books haven’t had this focus or handled it as well as earlier ones, but this is once again a highlight in Magic Shifts. The investigation case draws from myths and legends, and while the main cause ends up being a more common one, the details are not common. Part of the fun is the different magical beings that show up and wondering what exactly is happening—and then finding out what is happening and why.
Although Magic Shifts is fun to read, I did have a couple of issues with it. The biggest one is that the characters are not as deep or interesting as they once were. Kate’s transformation was fantastic, and I loved how her narrative reflected her character development. At this point, she seems to have become a rather static character with only two major focuses: protecting everyone around her and admiring Curran. Neither of these are bad on their own, but she is starting to seem like a two-note character since this is most of her character now. Many of the characters I enjoyed reading about so much earlier in the series only show up briefly and I’d like to see more of them and learn more about them. I would like to see more emphasis on Kate’s relationships with people other than Curran. She did spend some time with Julie in this book and reading about the two of them together was great, but it seemed like Andrea showed up just enough to remind us that Kate has a best friend. At this point in the series, the more intriguing characters are the villains, and Hugh was completely absent from this book other than occasionally being mentioned. Roland keeps things interesting when he is present, but he’s not in this one very much.
Another problem I had with this book is one I’ve had with other books in this series: potential obstacles are overcome much too easily. In both this book and the last, there were some chances for Kate to face some consequences for her choices, and yet she did not have to in the end. There was an incredibly heart-wrenching part in Magic Shifts, and Kate has to make a decision in which she is presented with two options, both of which have disadvantages. However, it all works out very neatly, and while it’s not exactly forgotten because it was such a horrible time, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to have any lasting impact either. This may sound strange since I do want Kate to be happy for once, but I’d like to see her have to work through some of these potential challenges instead of having them quickly resolved for her. Reading about how she handled them would show more about her as a person, and I think it would help with the issues I’ve begun to have with her seeming like a static character since it would be a good opportunity for character development and growth.
Magic Shifts is a perfectly readable book and a definite improvement over the last book in this series, but I also don’t think it’s as memorable as many of the other Kate Daniels books. It does have the hilarious dialogue and narrative I’ve come to expect, and I also found the mythological elements quite compelling. I very much enjoyed reading it, but after I was finished, I realized that it didn’t have as much payoff as it could have. While it does seem to be setting up some interesting future events, it didn’t show me anything new about the characters as people and some difficulties that could have helped flesh them out more were conveniently removed—and some more in-depth character development could have taken it from ‘entertaining’ to ‘outstanding’ like some of the other books in this series.
My Rating: 7.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.
Other Reviews of Magic Shifts:
Reviews of Previous Books in the Kate Daniels Series:
- Magic Bites
- Magic Burns
- Magic Strikes
- Magic Bleeds
- Magic Slays
- Magic Rises
- Magic Breaks