Blood Heir

Hello all! It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted. There’s been a bit of something going on in the world and I just could not get up the desire to post, even though I’ve been reading. I’m sure there are plenty out there that feel the same or worse, but things are starting to get better! Since I just renewed my ownership of Crooked Reviews, I thought it best to post again. Brief mention of spoilers because this book is fairly new, written during the pandemic and just published.

There is always something in me that is a little leery of reading spinoff books from a series I love. Even though it’s the same writer, or same writing team in this case, I’m always worried that it won’t be quite as good as the original series. Usually, I’m proved wrong because I like the writer (or writers) for a reason. I was once again proven wrong with Ilona Andrews’ Blood Heir.

This follows the continuing adventures of Julie Olsen from the Kate Daniels book, roughly a decade or so after the end of Magic Triumphs. Only now she’s Aurelia Ryder. I gotta be honest, I don’t dig that change. I’m not sure why, and it isn’t currently explained, that she changed her name. She’s also the official heir to Erra, who has set up New Shinar around San Diego. She calls her grandmother.

Julie has hardened and changed, physically, mentally and magically since she left Atlanta. She ran afoul of a big bad called Moloch (a name that any scifi fan or bible reader will know – interesting Venn diagram) in Arizona. He carved out her eye and she his, but she put his eye in her head. The psychic/magical backlash put her in a coma that lasted for about 9 months, but to her was several years. She and Erra trained the ever-loving crap out of Julie/Aurelia while in that coma and she came out much more knowledgeable than when she went in. She now also looked like Kate Lennart’s (nee Daniels) biological daughter.

The book starts out with Aurelia riding back into Atlanta. She needs to do something to save her mother, but unfortunately that also means she can’t actually see her mother. Because reasons. Because prophetic reasons. It’s a huge convenient plot device that I’ll be honest, kinda bugs me. Kate Lennart spent her life thwarting prophecies and now Aurelia (nee Julie) thinks she can’t help keep herself alive? I call shenanigans.

At any rate, she runs into some members of the Pack who try to shake her down. She gets out of it, but she’s caught the attention of Ascanio of the Bouda clan. She and Ascanio have never gotten along, and she knows he’s up to something, but she doesn’t know what. At this point, she’s not interested at all because it doesn’t have to do with saving Kate from Moloch.

Aurelia gets away from the members of the Pack and sets up house near Unicorn Lane. Unicorn Lane is violently magical, even when the tech is down. It’s a great place to hide near. She also hightails it to the Order because she’s here to solve a murder that has to do with the prophecy and saving Kate. A priest of great renown was murdered by something and Moloch wants that something. If he eats the heart of that something, the prophecy concerning him and Kate will come true.

There’s a lot of this book that is spent with Aurelia going around to the people she used to know as Julie Olsen (Nick Feldman of the Order, Ascanio and some others in the Pack, the People and so on) and spending her time with a “will the or won’t the recognize me”. Spoilers: Some do, some don’t. She also feels like some people haven’t changed for the better. The Pack seems a lot more paranoid, because visiting shapeshifters have 24 hours to present themselves to the Pack, instead of the standard 3 days when she last lived there.

She also picks up a little street thief and ends up claiming responsibility for her. Unlike with her and Kate though, the little thief (Marten – like the varmint) is taking under the wing of the premier thief/assassin for New Shinar. Marten saw what happened to the priest and was a key witness for Julie.

Also on the scene is Derek Gaunt, the werewolf that Kate and Curran practically adopted. Apparently, when Julie left, she was hoping that Derek would follow her. He didn’t and she’s mad. Of course, I’m pretty certain that she never really let on that she liked him. Too much like Kate. At any rate, Derek left Atlanta not too long after Julie and some how and for reasons currently unknown, became a beta in the Icy Fury Pack (Alaska-ish) and changed his name to Darren Argent. He wants to solve the murder too, because he owed the priest for something that happened a while ago.

Naturally, Darren and Aurelia run into each other and recognize each other immediately. Darren pretends not to know Aurelia is Julie for a while, but eventually gets tired of the charade. Together, as they’ve done so many times before (and in various novellas and short stories in the Kate Daniels verse), they solve the murder and kill the creature responsible before Moloch can get his creepy hands on it. Derek eats the heart of the beast, because that’s the part that will allow a prophecy to come true. We don’t know what Derek’s prophecy is, but I’m betting it’s him and Julie/Aurelia finally getting their act together because clearly they are mates.

This was very clearly an introductory book for a new series. There are a lot of things in question and there’s a lot of things that I’m considering whether or not I like. New names of Julie and Derek, for instance. This insistence that Kate can’t know she’s in Atlanta, so naturally she has to stay in Atlanta BECAUSE REASONS. It’s always irritating when there’s a “you have to stay here or you have to do this” but there’s not even a paltry excuse as to why given.

Overall, the writing is Ilona Andrews through and through and, overall, the story is quite good. It made me want to re-read the Kate Daniels series again, so I did. I’m sure there are more books coming out, because Aurelia and Darren (Julie and Derek) have issues they need to work out. And the big bad wasn’t killed/banished. I’m going to call it now: To get rid of the big bad, who regenerates so you can’t kill him (natch), Aurelia is going to swap him for her grandfather in Neig’s private realm somehow. And I kinda hope that doesn’t happen so I’ll be surprised by whatever comes.

It’s a good read, and I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series but I hope it doesn’t become too formulaic. Rating: B+. It’s a little tropey and a little basic, but a fun read and definitely in the Kate Daniels universe style. Recommendation: I’d also read Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper Chronicles series and The Edge series.

Magic Bites

urban_fantasy_book_magic_bitesAaaaaaaaaah finally. New job, less time to do things like blog. Ah well, I have plenty of books to review. ūüôā Let’s start with Ilona Andrew’s¬†Magic Bites. This is book one of the Kate Daniels series. In this we are introduced to mercenary Kate Daniels. The book starts with her “fresh” off a case (covered in nasty goo and sewage is not fresh by any means) when she gets word that her old guardian has died. Been murdered actually.

Knowing that he was far too good at being a Knight for the Order of Merciful Aid, Kate knows it had to be a really bad situation. So¬†she knows that she really needs to find who killed him. To do this, she heads down to Atlanta via ley line (convenient and quick but dangerous way to travel). She gets the okay from the Order of Merciful Aid to look into the guy’s death but with the understanding that she’s on her own. They’re not going to provide her back up (despite them really wanting to get revenge as well) but they won’t get in the way either.

Naturally things go wrong from the off. The Masters of the Dead (those who control the empty shell vampires) want her to find the murderer because a number of their vampires have also been brutally murdered (literally torn apart). And of course their natural enemies, the were/shifters, also want the murderer…but neither side wants to cooperate with the other. They’ll cooperate somewhat with Kate but never with each other. In fact, they currently think each other is to blame…with Kate right in the middle. So a bit of a cliche sitch right there but the good writing more than makes up for it.

Kate Daniels is not an investigator. She’s a mercenary. She tracks things down and kills them. Occasionally she bodyguards. ¬†So it isn’t quite out of character for her to be stumbling along trying to fix things and actually doing a bit of bungling from the off. The nice thing about the lead character not being an investigator of some sort (PI, cop, fed etc) is that its harder to for you the reader to figure out the main villain is before the denouement. I love that in a book. I’m the kind of person who figured out the “twist” ending in¬†The Sixth Sense¬†less than half way through the movie. I’m always slightly disappointed if its easy to figure out the big bad in any fantasy book from the get go.

This is a pretty good book to get into the series with but I don’t necessarily think that you¬†need to read it first. Personally, I like reading a book series in order as it tends to make things easier but not always. It introduces you to the main players in this series well enough and gives you a good mystery to boot. The one thing I couldn’t really wrap my head around at this point in the whole series is the Kate/Curran relationship.

I mean, sure, there’s a lot to be said for pure physical/sexual attraction (and boy does Kate fight that every step of the way) but Curran is overbearing as all hell. If a guy in real life treated me the way that Curran treats Kate (or any¬†other woman for that matter), he’d be out on his ass long before sex ever came in the picture. Sure, a strong and confident man is sexy as hell (to me at least) but this guy¬†expects to get his way. In everything. That’s not cool. He doesn’t deserve a woman just because he’s the Beast Lord. That’s creepy and, well, rapey.

Their relationship changes over the course of the series and Curran gets a bit better but he’s still a character I’d like to hit over the head with something and just yell “REALLY?!” right in his face. At any rate, I enjoyed this book (260ish pages in three hours? Yup, liked it). I recommend the series. Rating:¬†A+

Kate Daniels

Kate Daniels seriesA while ago I read this anthology called¬†Dark and Stormy Knights. In it was this short story featuring a mercenary named Kate Daniels. The story was called¬†A Questionable Client¬†and Kate was hired to protect a very wealthy person from some Russian magic users.¬†I really enjoyed this story but I didn’t know if this was a one off short like a lot of what ends up in these urban fantasy anthologies or if it was part of a series.

It turns out that it was sort of a prequel short story for the Kate Daniels series by husband and wife writers Ilona Andrews. I’d never checked this series out before and I’m rather glad I did. Kate Daniels et al exist in a world where magic and technology exist in waves. When magic is up, no technology works. This means anything from an automatic gun (why, I don’t know) to electric lights and vehicles (phones occasionally work though no one knows why). When technology is up, nothing magic works (cars that run on magic, fey lanterns, wards, spells). Because of the unpredictability of these switch offs, things like planes and tall buildings are no-nos. Magic eats tall buildings apparently.

This is a sort of post-magical-apocalypse world where magic users, shifters and other magical creatures exist. In this world, vampires are blank puppets run by so called Masters of the Dead (which I take to mean necromancers). ¬†There are more types of shifters than just werewolves. Take for example one of the main characters, the Beast Lord. He is a were-lion which is apparently quite rare. The Beast Lord (Curran) controls all the shifters in the Atlanta area (anywhere from 3-1200 at any given time) to keep them from going ‘loupe’ (feral) so that humans don’t kill them.

The main character of the series is, obviously, Kate Daniels, who starts out as a mercenary and ends up as a liaison between the Mercenary Guild and the Order of Merciful Aid (they’ll help anyone but they could end up killing the client if they deem him/her/it a danger to humanity). She was raised to be a killer and she’s good at it. She’s got a goal she’s working toward and she will do it eventually.

Kate is one of those bad ass chicks that stays bad ass the whole time, even when she eventually decides that yes she does have a thing for Beast Lord Curran. She doesn’t just roll over and play the damsel in distress, which I love. A lot of these so called strong female characters out there will be strong…until a man gets in the picture. Then all of a sudden she can’t figure out when end of the sword to use (hint: its the pointy end). To be fair, she does have to get rescued by Curran from time to time BUT more often than not its because she saved his bacon first and is so near death that she can’t save herself.

I really enjoyed this series and plan on doing a more in depth review of each book. There is action, there is snark and there is just enough romance to make things interesting without it being all about the sex (which doesn’t happen until book 3-4 by the way). I highly, highly recommend these books as I burned though all of them in about a week. I’m hoping I can pick up the other short stories without buying the anthologies that they’re a part of, but we’ll see. Rating:¬†A+