Review: Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

A couple of weeks ago I read Magic Bites, the first Kate Daniels novel. I found Kate a somewhat cookie-cutter heroine but was intrigued by the world-building in the book and thought the series had promise, so I checked out its sequel, Magic Burns, to see if I liked Kate’s second outing better.

The moment I finished Magic Burns, I put myself on the library waitlist for the next three Kate Daniels books.

Magic Burns doesn’t spend much time telling us about Kate’s life since the events of the last book. We’re thrown straight into the fire (pun intended) as Kate and her fellow mercenary Jim pit themselves against a pyromaniac wielding a magic salamander. A few action-packed chapters later, Kate finds herself protecting a teenaged girl named Julie, whose mother has vanished along with the other members of her amateur coven.

In Magic Bites, I was frustrated at the way that Kate seemed unable or unwilling to control her temper. This time, we see Kate thinking through her actions, and when she makes mistakes, they’re of the hindsight-is-a-bitch variety and not the well-what-did-you-expect variety. I also loved the tentative way that loner Kate has opened herself up to allies, like the young werewolf Derek, her new friend Andrea, and Pack leader Curran.

The will-they-won’t-they subtext between Kate and Curran from Magic Bites becomes explicit in the second book when Kate realizes that the Pack leader is seriously interested in her. I should pause here and admit that I usually don’t enjoy urban fantasy romances. A lot of them tend to follow a similar, obnoxious trope: the male love interest is bossy and overprotective and has to be taught to treat the heroine like a capable human being.*

Not the case here. Curran is attracted to Kate’s independence and harbors no illusions that she’s going to do what he says just because he says it. You get the sense that if she went all, “whatever you say, darling, you know best,” he’d lose interest pretty quick. While I found the relationship between Kate and Curran tepid in the first book, the sparks fly in Magic Burns. Furthermore, the unresolved sexual tension is actually interesting and tells us something important about the characters. Kate has very good reasons for wanting to avoid physical and emotional relationships. Even though you secretly want her to jump Curran already, you understand why she doesn’t and even share her ambivalence.

If you like urban fantasy, this is a must-read — I might even recommend starting the series here because I think Magic Burns is a distinct step up from Magic Bites. Now, back to checking my status on the waitlist for Magic Strikes …

Rating: Library Loan/Buy It

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* Call me picky, but I think our heroines should hold out for guys who already know that women are people too.

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