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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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text 2019-02-04 19:57
Reading progress update: I've read 81%.
Iron and Magic - Ilona Andrews

Am I the only reader who'd like 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 tell me more about the hopes, regrets, excitments and fears of the combatants than this description of sweaty gymnastics provided.

 

 

Perhaps there's something in the contract with publishers that makes these scenes mandatory. Maybe most readers find that they add some excitement to the book.

 

Personally, it triggers my  Avicci response: wake me up when it's all over.

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text 2019-02-03 20:10
Reading progress update: I've read 30%.
Iron and Magic - Ilona Andrews

Giving Hugh an English Northern accent in the audiobook is an inspired choice.

 

He's 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, I'm curious to see how he'll define self-interest.

 

Then there're the witches. The Ilona Andrews version of witches has never felt wholesome. There's always a whit or rot and a twitch of insanity. This lot seem... slippery.

 

Great fun so far.

 

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text 2019-02-03 09:54
Reading progress update: I've read 6%.
Iron and Magic - Ilona Andrews

This is surprisingly good. 

 

Who knew I could find myself interested in Hugh?

 

The tone is darker, more muscular and more rage-filled than the Daniels books but the humour is still there. This line, from Hugh's negotiation for a warhorse, amused me. Dropping this into Trump's America can't be unintentional:

 

HUGH: He's white.

HORSETRADER: Nobody's perfect.

 

 

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review 2018-12-26 19:06
Review: Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant #1) by Ilona Andrews
Iron and Magic - Ilona Andrews

 

No day is ordinary in a world where Technology and Magic compete for supremacy…But no matter which force is winning, in the apocalypse, a sword will always work. Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast. Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she's trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify. Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies? As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.” Hugh and Elara may do both.

 

 

 

 

I love the Ilona Andrews team and I love the Kate Daniels series but to be honest when I heard about this book first and Hugh being a “good” guy I was not convinced. That being said…… I should admit that I was wrong and I really, really loved it. I don’t know how they do it (and maybe it is magic), but they just a have a way to suck you into their world and make you love it. This book is a sort of add on to the Kate Daniels series/ world but even if you have not read the Kate Daniels books, you can read it. But of course it helps to know the world and some characters from that world, plus they super fun to read. When we first meet Hugh in this book he is pretty much broken and has given up on life. The only thing that keeps him going are his men, if even that. He is just a shell of a man we know and hated so much. He makes a deal to marry Elara for the alliance they offer each other in hope of defeating a common enemy. I never thought I would like him or could easily relate to him but damn it he is one charming bastard with a wicked and pretty sad past. Things to get to him but he just never really showed it. The more we learn about him and his way the more I liked him. Didn’t help that he is pretty sexy and he knew it , but most if all I liked his snark. Best coupled up with Elara . Speaking of Elara, I really loved her form the beginning, she didn’t legt Hugh get the better of her and stood her ground…. For the most part. She matched him in a lot of things. We learn pretty early on that there is more to her and she also is kind of haunted by something in her past and she feels cursed. Her true powers are sort of a big mystery… all the way to the end when we get what I think a pretty good glimpse of her and her coven. I really enjoyed the snark between Hugh and Elara and I laughed out loud many times. Of course they have some wicked chemistry together that will drive you crazy. This book is crazy fun and full of action, humor and surprises. Of course we get some smexy times like in most of their books. Some things were not a huge surprise to me since I stupidly read Magic Triumphs first but I still loved it and it still had some pretty big twists. Overal super fun book and I can’t wait for the next one.

I rate it 5 ★

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Available NOW 

 

 

Amazon *** B&N *** Kobo 

 

 

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