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text 2019-03-07 18:50
Innkeeper Chronicles series
Clean Sweep - Ilona Andrews
Sweep in Peace - Ilona Andrews
One Fell Sweep - Ilona Andrews

 

March 2019 Re-Read

 

When life is getting me down, I turn to Ilona Andrews.  I powered through the Hidden Legacy series and still needed an infusion of light-hearted fun and fantasy.  Enter the Innkeeper Chronicles.  I debated long and hard before I sank my cash into these volumes, but I’m so glad that I did.  There’s nothing like Dina, Caldenia, Sean, and Arland to make me smile and feel better.  I am so relating to Dina missing her parents right now—my mother’s last sibling passed away at the end of January and I am missing her, my parents and all the other aunts & uncles.  Spending time in Red Deer, Texas, helps me feel a little less lonely.

 

So yes, I’m avoiding life right now and re-reading old favourites.  I’m not sure when this tendency will end, but I’m enjoying my vacation from reality.

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text 2019-03-07 18:48
Hidden Legacy series
Burn for Me - Ilona Andrews
White Hot - Ilona Andrews
Wildfire - Ilona Andrews
Diamond Fire - Ilona Andrews

 

March 2019 Re-Read

When life is getting me down, I turn to Ilona Andrews. Particularly the Hidden Legacy series. There’s some strange alchemy in this series which just makes me feel better. The closeness of the Baylor family when I’m missing my family dreadfully. Nevada’s dedication to her company when my work situation is feeling less than ideal. The relationship between Nevada and Rogan when I haven’t seen my guy for longer than usual. Sometimes I’m stunned at how much I enjoy the extreme violence in the books, but that also seems to be a peaceful way for me to purge my own desire to punch people.

I love this fantasy world—the magic, the Houses, the dialog, Nevada’s internal commentary, the Baylor family, all of it. I’m so glad that the Andrews decided to continue on with a Catalina series, which I am awaiting impatiently.

So yes, I’m avoiding life right now and re-reading old favourites. I’m not sure when this tendency will end, but I’m enjoying my vacation from reality.

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text 2019-03-07 17:24
Snakes & Ladders update
Diamond Fire - Ilona Andrews
Clean Sweep - Ilona Andrews
Sweep in Peace - Ilona Andrews
One Fell Sweep - Ilona Andrews
Kill the Queen - Jennifer Estep

This time around, I begin on square 30.  There are no trains in Diamond Fire, so I get to shake one die. Result: 5.  Move on to square 35.  Clean Sweep hasn't been adapted as a movie, so another shake of one die.  Result: 2.  Square 37, and as far as I know, Sweep in Peace hasn't won any awards, so another 1 die shake.  Result: 5, moving to square 42.  No characters involved in a sport or sports industry in One Fell Sweep, so another one die shake.  Result: 6.  Move to square 48. A book you acquired in February 2019.  I can't do that either, so I'll use Kill the Queen for another shake of one die: 5.

 

Ending up on square 53.  The cue: has something that can be used as a weapon on the cover.  My copy of Snow Crash actually has a sword on the cover.  I'll let that be one of my incentives to get reading on that book!

 

On we go, my friends.

 

 

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text 2019-03-03 22:36
Snakes and Ladders: moves 7 to 9
Burn for Me - Ilona Andrews
White Hot - Ilona Andrews
Wildfire - Ilona Andrews

 

When last you heard from me, I was on square 17, not having a horror  book to read.  It was a cold weekend--hopefully the last really cold one, but time will tell--and I had a crappy week at work.  What do I do when life gets rough?  I re-read Ilona Andrews, that's what.

 

So, I read Burn for Me and get to shake one die : result was 4.  which takes me to square 21 (a book set in Europe).  Nope, I headed on with White Hot, set in Texas.  Another shake of one die:  result was 5.  Takes me to square 26, Part of a series that is more than 5 books lone.  Once again, I chose Wildfire, which will become part of a 5 book series this year, but its not there yet!  So, one more shake of one die: 4.  Now I'm on square 30, a book where someone travels by train.  

 

Not sure what my next book will be actually--I'm not in a reading slump, but really feeling down in the dumps.  This despite a wonderful book club meeting on Friday evening.

 

I'm sure I'll shake it off soon, but I can hardly wait until I feel more upbeat.

 

 

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review 2019-02-13 11:30
"Iron and Magic - The Iron Covenant #1" by Ilona Andrews
Iron and Magic - Ilona Andrews

 

I didn't want to read this book.

 

I mean, what would be the point? Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers is a violent, amoral, narcissistic killer who, in the previous Kate Daniels books, I'd have happily seen cleaved by Kate's sword or dangling in pieces from Curren's claws. Why would I want to read a book about a man like that?

 

Well, because Ilona Andrews wrote it and because I'd been told that it was a crossover book that I should read before the tenth Kate Daniels book. So it was the anally retentive pedant part of me that picked up this book, not my inner fanboy, but it's the fanboy who's writing the review.

 

"Iron and Magic" is surprisingly good. 

 

The tone is darker, more muscular and more rage-filled than the Daniels books. Kate's I-have-to-save-my-people-to-prove-to-myself-that-I-have-not-become-my-father motivation is replaced by the sceptical pragmatism of the two main characters, Hugh and Elara, who are motivated by the knowledge that To-survive-I-have-to-make-a-deal-with-these-unpleasant-untrustworthy-people-that-I-may-have-to-kill-or-who-may-kill-me.

 

Most of my enjoyment from the book came from the same sources as the Daniels books: strong, complex, slightly unpredictable characters locked in a frenemy conflict, a twisty plot filled with new threats, excellent battle scenes, the ability to make me care about who lives and who dies and a constant pulse of well-timed humour.

 

A smaller part of me was applauding the skill with which Ilona Andrews engaged me in caring about Hugh d’Ambray's fate.

 

It was an object lesson in how to turn a figure of hate into a (sort of) hero in three easy steps:

 

  1. Make him guilty and damaged
  2. Give him something to protect from something worse than him
  3. See him through the eyes of another monster

 

Make him guilty and damaged

 

The humanisation of Hugh d'Ambray began with showing him responding to the loss of his immortality and his exile from Roland by trying to drink himself to death. He's dragged from this by the senior members of the Iron Dogs. the force that Hugh built to prosecute Roland's will, who need his leadership to prevent them from being wiped out by Roland's vampires. The loyalty shown to Hugh casts him in a less selfish light and the vampires provide a credible and dislikable threat.

 

The guilt comes more slowly, but constantly, as Hugh starts to realise how he failed to question Roland's commands, no matter how brutal. Hugh is still a violent, dangerous man who pursues his self-interest without hesitation or regret but now that he's no longer doing Roland's will, he's forced to define the "we" that his self-interest covers and to consider the cost of his actions.

 

Give him something to protect from something worse than him.

 

Ilona Andrews knows that you make violence honourable by using it to protect the innocent. The Iron Dogs could never be seen as innocents so we get a community made up families of hippyish witches, holed up in a castle, surrounded by hostile or indifferent neighbours and under threat from the same vampires hunting the Iron Dogs. The threat is then amplified as a previously unknown force of magic-using warriors start to annihilate the surrounding villages. Now Hugh's violence is turned from the sword of a tyrant to a shield for the innocent.

 

The new bad guys are an inspired addition. Suddenly, Roland's people aren't the top of the food chain any more and the new Big Bad is alien, inscrutable and deeply scary. I hope they're part of the crossover to the Kate Daniels storyline.

 

See him through the eyes of another monster.

 

I think the master stroke of the book is the creation of Elara Harper, The White Lady and leader/protector of the community of witches. Elara is more dangerous and less human than the now weakened and mortal Hugh. She takes an instant dislike to him (which speaks well of her judgement) but is willing to use him and his Iron Dogs to defend her community.

 

Ilona Andrews version of witches has never felt wholesome. There has always been a whiff of rot and a twitch of insanity associated with them. Elara and her community carry a greater sense of threat with them than that. They seem... slippery. Elara certainly sees herself as a monster and so her view of Hugh is unique.

 

In a reversal of the development of the relationship between Kate and Curren, the relationship between Elara and Hugh starts with a marriage. True, it's a marriage of convenience to convince the world that these two, who each has a history of betraying allies, really are united. This device allowed intimacy without empathy between the two players and provided a framework for a "Taming Of The Shrew" theme with Elara and Hugh taking turns at being the shrew. Their mutual antagonism is credible as well as being fun. It gave a space for Hugh to continue on the path to humanity by expanding his definition of "we" to include Elara and her people and Elara's slow, reluctant growth of Elara's regard for Hugh made him more engaging.

 

Then there was the sex scene

Am I the only reader who'd like Audible to have a Skip-To-End-Of-Overlong-Sex-Scene button?

 

This book was going well. Then we had the sex scene that was almost a chapter long, almost all of which was cinematic i.e with a strong emphasis on what the sex looked like rather than what was going on on the heads of either participant. The fight scenes told me more about the hopes, regrets, excitements and fears of the combatants than this description of sweaty gymnastics provided on what was going on in Elara's or Hugh's head.

 

I could see that it moved the relationship between the two of them on and did so just before the big everything-hinges-on-this fight but I really didn't need a whole chapter on this.

 

I recommend the audiobook version.

 

Steve West does an excellent job as the narrator, His slightly rough, slightly Northern, very English voice for Hugh is inspired. He does a credible job with Elara and I felt like cheering when he used a Hispanic accent for the leaders of the Bouda Clan.

 

Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear an extract.

https://soundcloud.com/audiolibrary-a/iron-and-magic-iron-covenant-book-1-by-ilona-andrews-audiobook-excerpt
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