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Review: Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, Book 1) by Ilona Andrews

by Ann-Katrina

Magic Bits Cover

Back Cover of Magic Bites

Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for the magic…

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t have it any other way…

Three Quick Points About Magic Bites

  • Point 1: The prose and pacing are exquisitely done. The book is smartly written without being pretentious and urges you forward without shoving you down a flight of stairs. It’s evident that the word selection and syntax were assembled with care.
  • Point 2: This novel is a perfect exercise in world-building. Set in a future version of Atlanta ravaged by magic, the descriptions are vividly dark and disturbingly crafted. It becomes real.
  • Point 3: What, no sparkly, beautiful, or dangerously seductive vampires? Nope. In this book, vampires veer from the contemporary norm. They are hideous quadrupedal humanoids continually degrading into something much worse—”an abomination in progress.”

Full Review of Magic Bites

Before reading the full review, please note that there may be some spoilers. I tried to keep it vague enough not to spoil the entire story, but be warned. If you’d rather not take any chances, skip the synopsis and go straight to the final thoughts.

Magic Bites Synopsis

In Magic Bites, Kate Daniels receives a cryptic message prompting her to check on her guardian. (When I first saw the term ‘guardian’, I thought it was some sort of super/preternatural type of guardian–it’s her legal guardian.) When she checks up on him, she learns that he’s been murdered.

After kicking up a bit of dust, she’s allowed to investigate his murder. She even receives some help to grease the wheels. During her investigation, she learns that her guardian was getting close to discovering a conspiracy that he shouldn’t have been.

After a bit more digging, Kate learns that there have been multiple deaths within two opposing groups in this world ruled by magic. In order to stop a complete uprising and war between these two groups, the Pack (shapechangers) and the People (necromancers), Kate needs to figure out what’s really behind the murders.

What results is that Kate brings us on a super/preternatural mystery complete with red herrings and all. Although it’s not a traditional mystery in the Agatha Christie sense, we do get to sit back and watch Kate piece together the clues to find out who’s behind the mysterious killings.

Eventually, with much ado, Kate and company finally manage to figure out who it is and Kate kicks herself when she looks at how obvious the answer should have been from the beginning. But, frankly, it’s easy to overlook. (Trying desperately to avoid spoilers.) Essentially, this book is like following Kate as she comes across a variety of cast members while venturing into the new-to-her field of sleuthing.

Final Thoughts On Magic Bites

My first thought after shutting Magic Bites was this is how a supernatural/preternatural fantasy book should be written. The strongest point of the book is the world created; the tearing down of the Atlanta we all know and the rebuilding of a dark, dilapidated, and disturbing place complete with menacing creatures and a new code of conduct.

The book is told from the point of view of Kate Daniels, a mercenary. She’s a spunky, in your face, get things done the hard way kind of girl. Being inside her head for the entire 260 page book wasn’t bad. She was rather entertaining. The only tough humps were the moments when she was down on herself physically. When she was ragging on herself, she really ragged and that did become a little annoying.

While the characters were also well crafted–Kate Daniels and Curran (the scary, and yet somehow sexy, Lord of the Free Beasts) in particular–a few did seem off somehow. Most notably was Bono. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about how the character was crafted rang false. Another qualm I had with the book was the various new agencies (and their abbreviations) thrown at the reader. It’s a little overwhelming to keep track of who they are, what their purpose is, and what they’re actually doing, but as the story moves forward, it does become easier to manage.

Those small points aside, Magic Bites was easily read in a single sitting. The descriptions of the people and settings were vivid enough to place the reader in the story while leaving enough room for the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks. The prose was clever, well thought out without being pretentious or forced; it was very natural to read from one sentence to the next and one page to the next. It had a little bit of everything: superficial romance, depraved bad guys, and bloody battles. Overall, it was a highly enjoyable read.

Rating: Worth every penny (?)

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Comments on Review: Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, Book 1) by Ilona Andrews

  1. # Brie wrote on November 10, 2008 at 2:45 pm:

    Great review, Ann!

    I have both Magic Bites and Magic Burns waiting on my book shelf, but haven’t started the series yet. I don’t know what I’m waiting on because the books have been getting really good feedback. After Nano ends I’m going to give it a go.

  2. # Ann-Kat wrote on November 10, 2008 at 6:42 pm:

    Thanks Brie.

    I was like you. For some reason, I’d let this book sit languishing in my TBR pile and it was a rainy afternoon and I wanted an urban fantasy fix and it was the closest book, so I just plunged right in…and I’m glad I did.

    You probably won’t be disappointed that you did either.

  3. # 2008 in Books, or the Ten Books I’m Glad I Read This Year - Today, I Read… wrote on January 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm:

    [...] Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews (review) [...]

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