Magic Triumphs is the tenth and final book in Ilona Andrews’ New York Times bestselling Kate Daniels series, though it won’t be the last book set in this world since there are two more Iron Covenant books planned. The epilogue of this novel also teases another spin-off, but I’m not planning to read any of them: as far as I’m concerned, this series should have ended earlier, and many of the issues I’ve had with the later books were present in this unsatisfying conclusion.

It’s with a mixture of sadness and relief that I bid farewell to Kate Daniels: a little sadness that it’s over but more because it ended without fulfilling its great potential, and relief because I no longer need to keep reading to find out how the story ends. You see, this series was one of my favorites once, books that remained with me after I finished them in a way that few manage to do. The authors maintained a fantastic balance between action and characterization, all while incorporating exciting fights and underutilized mythologies that resulted in novels that were precisely my cup of tea. The earlier books also had a darker edge that appealed to me, one that led to lasting consequences as a result of living in such a dangerous world. When a character made a difficult choice, the results were not easily swept under the rug like it never happened. When a character died or dealt with trauma, it mattered.

But most of all, I loved Kate: her development, her determination, and the way she approached every situation with a sense of humor. I enjoyed watching her go from a loner who had been taught that her very survival depended on hiding and avoiding relationships to finding a best friend in Andrea and love with Curran—and the way her first person narration reflected this, as she went from being secretive about her powers and family history to gradually becoming more and more open.

I was thoroughly invested in these characters and their stories for more than half the series. Although I thought the plot and mythological components were not as well done in the sixth book (Magic Rises), the dialogue, humor, and the amazing fight scene with Hugh made it work for me regardless. (Hugh was a large part of the reason I found that one incredibly engaging, and I was incredibly disappointed by his story in Iron and Magic.)

Then my enthusiasm for the series began to wane around the seventh book (Magic Breaks) and hit an all-time low with the ninth book (Magic Binds). Looking back, it seems it was around this point characterization started taking a backseat to characters being badass and cracking jokes—and without the former, they just seemed to be going through the motions instead of being fully fleshed out individuals, especially since the dialogue was weaker. Though there were still fun moments, they didn’t pack an emotional punch, and once-vibrant personalities seemed to be mere shadows of what they once were—even Kate.

It also seemed to me that the books lost their edge and developed a pattern of playing it safe closer to the end of the series. Obstacles were often easily removed, and Kate was kept from making choices that might have led to compelling character development but would have made life more difficult for her. That’s not to say that bad things never happen in later books, but when they do, they wrap up easily without major lasting effects. They just don’t matter like they once did.

Magic Triumphs follows the recent trends of minimal character development and overcoming challenges so swiftly that victory doesn’t seem earned. That said, it is entertaining and I found it far more readable and polished than Iron and Magic (even if it did annoy me that Kate’s child’s age was inconsistent). But despite some fun dialogue and amusing moments, it still fell short in comparison to older books in the series and wasn’t all that memorable—aside from the fact that it is a horrible finale to a ten-book series, that is.

It begins rather typically with a mystery: two hundred people vanished, and whoever or whatever could manage to make a great number of people disappear from their homes left only their bones behind. Kate then attempts to figure out what’s going on while protecting her thirteen-month-old (or maybe eighteen-month-old?) son from assassins. Meanwhile, various characters show up at different stages, creating an excuse for snappy dialogue. At this point, there are so many characters all getting a brief moment in the spotlight that they do not get a chance to shine as individuals, and even Andrea and Kate’s friendship seemed stale.

The biggest problem is that this seems like a filler book in the middle of a series for approximately the first 90%. Roland is mentioned once in awhile but barely even present until close to the end, and Magic’s Big Triumph occurs in about 20 pages. (This is not an exaggeration.) The ending is so rushed that there’s not much tension, and one part that should have been heart-wrenching was resolved so quickly and neatly that it barely left an impression. After that, there are a few emotionless paragraphs summarizing what happened to various characters. Earlier in the series, I would have found some of the more tragic fates affecting, but the wooden delivery combined with the more recent wooden characterization meant it didn’t have that much of an impact on me.

If Magic Triumphs had not been the final book in the series, I probably would have found it fine—certainly nowhere near the quality of earlier books in the series due to the lack of characterization and poor pacing, but not bad as a quick diversion. It was a delight to revel in Kate’s prowess as a magical sword-wielding badass and discover her son’s developing powers, and I was glad that the series finally tackled a particular mythology (which I won’t spoil!). However, it was weak as the culmination of Kate’s arc, and I’m disappointed that a series once so full of heart didn’t end on a high note.

My Rating: 4/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished review copy from the publisher.

Reviews of Previous Books in the Kate Daniels Series:

  1. Magic Bites
  2. Magic Burns
  3. Magic Strikes
  4. Magic Bleeds
  5. Magic Slays
  6. Magic Rises
  7. Magic Breaks
  8. Magic Shifts
  9. Magic Binds