I think the hardest books to review may be books in an ongoing series. Fans of Kate Daniels have probably already picked up Magic Breaks; newcomers to Kate’s world definitely aren’t going to start with Book 7.* So consider this partly a review of Magic Breaks, and partly a review of where the series stands as a whole at this point. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers for books 1-6, but anyone planning to start the series might want to skip this review.
Minor series spoilers henceforth
Magic Breaks represents a major turning point for mercenary-turned-leader Kate Daniels. Throughout the series, Kate has been bracing herself for a seemingly inevitable battle with her father, a powerful and ancient sorcerer named Roland who sought to kill Kate when she was still in the womb. In the last book, Magic Rises, Kate and her boyfriend Curran (the leader of the Atlanta shapeshifters, who call themselves the Pack) finally found themselves in open conflict with Roland’s right-hand man, Hugh d’Ambrey. The opening salvo of their battle cost Kate and Curran dearly, but at the beginning of Magic Breaks everything finally seems stable again. Curran leaves on a diplomatic trip, and Kate prepares to lead the Pack in his absence.
And then, this being a Kate Daniels book, all hell breaks lose when Hugh — who carries a twisted torch for Kate — waltzes straight into Atlanta and brings the city to the brink of war. Suddenly Kate has to solve a murder, figure out what Hugh wants, protect the Pack, and deal with bitter infighting among the Pack’s wolves — all the while wondering if Curran is safe, or if his diplomatic mission was another of Hugh’s deadly traps.
Magic Breaks features the breakneck action that we’ve come to expect (and love) from Ilona Andrews. The first third of the book is a long sequence of murder-solving, espionage, running, and fighting, and it ranks up there with the best chapters in Kate Daniels history. The middle of the book sags a bit, however; one of the drawbacks of first-person narrative is that we have to stay with Kate, even when the most interesting action is happening elsewhere. I found myself wondering if Ilona Andrews would ever consider a Sue Grafton-style narrative experiment and open a few middle chapters up to alternate narrators, like Curran.** But the book’s final action sequence once again had me at the edge of my seat.
One of the series’ major strengths is its supporting characters, and Magic Breaks proves to be a breakout book for Desandra, a spoiled but cunning wolf we met in Magic Rises. Desandra is crude and blunt, but also smart and brave and very funny. She delivers one of my favorite laugh-out-loud lines of the entire series when she gives Kate a very inventive suggestion for dealing with Hugh.
Without spoiling anything, I will end by saying that I am really excited about where Magic Breaks leaves Kate, Curran, and the series at the end. The biggest risk for a long-running series is becoming stale, telling the same story over and over again. But the events of Magic Breaks are game-changing, and the series will not be the same going forward. I can’t wait to see where we go next.
Rating: Buy it (if you’re already a Kate Daniels addict)
* If you are a Kate Daniels newbie, I recommend starting with Book 2.
** The book’s prologue is written from the point of view of Barbaras, Kate’s were-mongoose lawyer and advisor.