Monday, April 27, 2009

Magic Strikes - Ilona Andrews

Gladiatorial Gem.

Continued improvement. First book a 3.0, next, 3.5, this one a 4.0. Quite impressive. So something is going right with this writing gestalt, it would appear.

The on-again, off-again magic/technological setting also continues to appeal. My suspicious of Grimjackery (a comic series where different parts of a city could operate differently, but a sword always works) in the reading background of this author were indeed confirmed.

The other differences between Kate Daniels and a lot of the other, especially female, urban fantasy characters along these lines is a refreshing lack of complete self-centredness. In fact, an extremely stubborn streak of altruism runs through this woman. Or more than a streak, perhaps much more like a swathe. Friends first, fornication a distant second, if you like.

Also, where the various monsters (or not really monsters, just non-humans) can be really run of the mill, and about as other, or scary as the aliens in the original Star Trek, here they can get quite horrific indeed. Other series can feel like watching Tiny Toons, despite supposed bloody monster mayhem occurring on the page.

Daniels is certainly a little hardboiled, and often rather witty to go along with that, slinging sword and sarcasm with aplomb. Fans of good old sword and sorcery may find something to like in this novel.

The story opens with someone hunting werewhatevers (although no rabbits, thankfully), along with an amusing scene with a donkey. Some of these part-time furries are friends of Kate's, and she gets involved when she realises they are being killed in a rather horror movie manner.

This leads her to a previous shapeshifting acquaintance of a different sort, and getting in deep with an underground fighting contest, with big money betting, facing off many and varied supernatural warriors in various combinations. The big event is a 7 a side team contest, and the new team in town are the ones to beat. A lot nastier than indoor soccer though (or even Salute Of the Jugger), as weapons and warlockery are all good in this arena, and losers have a survival rate that is rather Rollerball.

Investigation to be done on the sly, against the expressed wishes of the boss were of the city, too. So possibly a case of dead if you lose, likely dead if you win.

Of course, this wouldn't be as fun if Kate didn't have to get involved to save a dying friend, and it gets messier indeed as more of her background is revealed, and the stakes raised.

I enjoyed this a lot.

4 out of 5

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