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review 2018-07-14 13:50
"Magic Shifts - Kate Daniels #8" by Ilona Andrews - THIS is how you reboot a series
Magic Shifts - Ilona Andrews

 

I delayed reading this book for a while as I knew the previous " I am your Father and I may need to kill you" story in the last book,"Magic Breaks" was originally meant to be the end of the series and I didn't want to spoil what I'd already read with a faint-hearted extension requested by the publishers. I was also a little disappointed in and frustrated by the last book.

 

I should have had more faith in the writers. "Magic Shifts" does exactly what the title implies, it shifts the series to a new level - completely rebooting it.

 

So how do you reboot a series?

 

You don’t wallow in nostalgia, repeat storylines, make things a similar as possible to the original but with a few decorative twists.

 

You do make the present valuable and the future something to hope for; introduce new threats, new uncertainties and new opportunities to collaborate; dare to let your characters grow, let their actions have consequences, let their lives have meaning beyond kill-the-bad-guy save-the-world try-not-to-die.

 

When we first met Kate as a misfit mercenary, calling “Here, kitty, kitty” to the werelion Beastlord in "Magic Bites", she was alone and in hiding, taking on all-comers because she had nothing to lose and she knew her doom was coming for her one day. She was afraid of her blood and ashamed at being good at nothing but killing.

 

At the start of "Magic Shifts" as Kate rides home through the Atlanta night, sword on her back, blood on her clothes, we immediately see how she's changed: she's comfortable in her own skin, reconciled to her power and happy to use it. 

“…the night shadows watched us and I watched them back. Let’s play who can be a better killer. My sword and I love this game.”

She's also not alone. She now has a family, friends and a city to protect. At the end of the last book, she has turned her whole world upside down - a truce of some sort with her father, a responsibility of some sort for the city she claimed, a life completely outside of the Pack, even a house in the suburbs. She and Curren have gotten past the will we won’t we? stage into the more interesting how will we stage. Of course, she still has this I-have-to-save-everybody reflex, she still behaves as if she's invulnerable, although the evidence shows she isn't and she still worries about the monster she might become. I guess that's what makes Kate Kate.

 

Curren is having fun in the suburbs, free from the politics of being Beastlord and enjoying being underestimated by strangers who see him as Kate's muscle.

 

This is a fast-paced action-packed book that starts with a battle that's really more of a slaughter - two against thirty isn't really fair when the two are Kate and Curren - and the violence escalates from there. We get new monsters, a new baddy an interesting new ally, all wrapped up in a puzzle that uses characters from earlier books in new ways. One of my favourite pieces was Kate meeting her I'm-the-most-dangerous-being-in-the-world father at Applebees for a family dinner. That started off as funny and became quietly menacing.

 

Although the pace is fast, it's always perfectly controlled. .When I reached the penultimate chapters I thought “Oh no - cliffhanger ending” I should have known better. What I got was a perfectly executed, action-packed, denouement that delivered a satisfying conclusion to the puzzles in the book, followed by an epilogue that deepened the emotional impact of ending and opened intriguing possibilities for the next book.

 

This is how you do Urban Fantasy when you’re at the top of your game.

 

I won't delay in reading book nine.

 

 

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text 2018-07-11 22:38
Reading progress update: I've read 47%.
Magic Shifts - Ilona Andrews

I delayed this book for a while as I knew the previous " I am your Father and I may need to kill you" story in the last book was originally meant to be the end of the series and I didn't want to spoil what I'd already read with a faint-hearted extension requested by the publisher's.

 

I should have had more faith in the writers. This post-Pack episode is energetic and full of renewed vigour.

 

The fight scenes are strong.  The enemies seem to be new and the dynamic between Kate and Currently is changing in interesting ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-07-09 13:36
"Discount Armageddon - InCryptid #1" by Seanan McGuire
Discount Armageddon - Seanan McGuire

I've joined this party a little late. I didn't know about Seanan McGuire until I read the serious and pain-filled "Rosemary and Rue"a few months ago.

 

"Discount Armageddon" is almost the mirror image of "Rosemary and Rue". It's fast, light and witty in a superficial denying-the-danger kind of way. It reaches for sassy, willfully unconventional and effortlessly lethal and makes it most of the time.

It has a great opening line:

"I really don't think you should put your hand inside the manticore, dear. You don't know where its been."

It's sprinkled with clever descriptions that made me smile. Here are a couple of examples:

 

Verity Price on her unconventional childhood

"Other kids got chores and teddy bears; we got gun safety classes and heavy weaponry. Normal’s what you make it."

Verity on first encountering the straight-laced but soon to be undone Covenant new-crusader-in-town who has snared her on a rooftop:

"Straightening, he puffed out his chest and said, “I am armored with righteousness.” 'Does righteousness protect you from small-caliber bullets?'"

I loved the premise of a family leaving the God-Wants-Us-To-Kill-The-Monsters cult and becoming cryptozoologists working with the Cryptids/monsters to create a stable ecosystem - how on message is that. The plot was clever without being too demanding. The originality and variety of cryptids encountered were fun. The mice were cute. The ballroom dancing was... exotic.

 

At times, I thought the pace lagged a little. The sex was eye-rolling but I'm almost sure that was intentional.

 

In the end, much depended on whether you liked Verity Price and cared what happened to her. I decided that I did and that I want to know more - in small doses - so I'm signing on for the next book in the series.

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text 2018-07-05 10:46
Reading progress update: I've read 2%. - as first lines go - this one has legs...
Discount Armageddon - Seanan McGuire

"I really don't think you should put your hand inside the manticore, dear. You don't know where its been."

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review 2018-06-18 16:13
"On The Prowl" by Patricia Briggs, Ellen Wilks, Karen Chance, Sunny
On the Prowl - Patricia Briggs,Eileen Wilks,Karen Chance,Sunny

"On The Prowl" is an urban fantasy short story collection in which each of the four authors has a story.

 

I bought it (despite the tacky cover art that makes me glad I'm reading the ebook version) because Debbie's Spurts told me that I should read the Patrica Briggs' prequel to her Alpha and Omega series before starting the series.

 

The stories by the other three authors were by way of a bonus as they are all new to me.

 

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs

 

On her website, Patricia Briggs describes the Alpha and Omega series as:

Patricia Briggs"...set in the same world as the Mercy Thompson Series, but on a slightly earlier time line. It begins with a novella titled Alpha and Omega published in the On the Prowl anthology. The decision to continue the story was made after the anthology had already been published, which has caused some confusion, since "book 1" is a actually a continuation of the short story."

She characterises the series as placing:

"... more emphasis on the romantic attraction between the hero and heroine. On a romance-readers scale, this series is sweet rather than steamy."

While it was interesting to see more of the world the Mercy Thompson novels are set in, I was a little disappointed in this novella. The story works as a standalone. The action is well-done. I just found myself thinking: "Patricia Briggs can do much better than this."

 

My main problem was the lack of emotional depth. It seemed to me that the "focus on romantic attraction" translated into making other emotions take a backseat.

 

The main female character, Anne has been attacked, forcibly turned into a werewolf and passed around the Pack by her Alpha as a rape-toy so often that she's attempted suicide.

 

The main male character is a laconic, emotionally withdrawn enforcer whose job is to kill those who break his father's rules.

 

Perhaps I'm not widely enough read on the topic but none of this sounds romantic to me.

 

The idea that these two would be able to set aside trauma and learned low self-esteem on Anne's side and a long lifetime of keeping emotionally distant in order to be able to kill on command on Charles' part and find a mating bond instantly was hard to take.

 

The attraction was well described but it seemed to be at the price of downplaying the baggage the pair have.

 

I think one of the strengths of the Mercy Thompson series is that when a rape occurs there, it is not downplayed and its effects are felt for a number of books.

 

This story felt like "Mercy-Lite". Still, perhaps Patricia Briggs needs the novel format to do what she does. I'll read the rest of the story in the first Alpha and Omega novel and find out.

 

"Inhuman" by Eileen Wilks

 

eileen wilksThis was my first Eileen Wilks story so everything had the advantage of being new.  The world building was original and stimulating. There was a relatively complicated plot for a short story. It managed to surprise me more than once, making me revisit the meaning of the title repeatedly.

 

The romance part was a little plodding. The people felt half-formed and inappropriately inexperienced or inarticulate. On the cusp between cute and you've-got-to-be-kidding.

 

The heroine's name confused me at first as everyone I know called Kai is male. Here it's pronounced like Sigh, not Hay. It took me awhile to work out that this was Kay with innovative vowel usage. I was also unclear how I was supposed to know that Kia was Native American (other than who isn't in Urban Fantasy - being WASP is so uninteresting).

 

The ending was a good set up for an upcoming book but I felt it walked away from a lot of what the plot was set up to do. I'd been following a hunt for a killer and when the hunt was over the outcome left me wondering what all the look-how-awful-this-killer-is build-up was for.

 

Even so, I was impressed with the originality of the ideas and the pacing of the execution.

 

"Buying Trouble" by Karen Chance

 

Karen ChanceThis made me laugh and it took a turn that I really didn't see coming.

It's a fast, light read filled with fast, light violence and sex and sprinkled with slightly indignant humour.

 

The ending was a bit - whoops-running-out-of-space-let's-skip-to-an-epilogue for my tastes but the story was a smile and the world was original so it was worth the read.

 

 

 

"Mona Lisa Betwining" by Sunny

 

SunnyI'd wondered why there was no editorial credit for this collection. The inclusion of "Mona Lisa Betwining" suggests to me that the ommission was driven by sheer embarrassment.

 

It's a short story that I lacked the stamina to make it to the end of.

 

First, there was this set of sentences which read like a rough first-draft yet are offered as the finished product:

"He was handsome, strikingly so. Like a Greek god of old. And he was more than just a pretty face. He was my new master of arms."

A little later I dragged my mind through the following sentences and realised that this prose was too awful to live with.

 

"I moved toward the door but he did not step away, allow me to pass. I stopped a mere foot away and looked askance at him."

 

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