Magic Rises - Ilona Andrews
~~MOVED FROM GR.~~
 
Magic Rises
by Ilona Andrews
 
Recommended to Carly by: BOM for about half the groups I'm in
Recommended for: Kate Daniels fans, fans of action-packed female-lead UF


It's hard to imagine a worse familial situation than being married to two men and, due to an unfortunate concatenation of circumstances, being simultaneously pregnant with both of their children. Add in a psychotic father who wants you dead and you really have a party. So how do Kate and Curran get themselves involved with this interesting family? In Kate Daniel's world, panacea may not cure all ills, but it does help with loupism. With Julie's best friend in dire need, Curran, Kate, and most of their gang head off to Europe to try to get their hands on the magical medicine in exchange for guarding the pregnant woman from her loving relatives.

Unfortunately, certain aspects of the book didn't really work for me, and I'm one of those loveable people who can't seem to stop with that statement; I have a deep compulsion to explain exactly why. I know it's heresy to not love these books. Please don't hurt me. If this review will make you angry, gentle reader, please take this opportunity to stop reading.

Part of the problem--and yes, I know I'm admitting this six books into the series--is that I somehow never formed a strong sympathetic connection with Kate. I really don't know why--in the abstract, her personality is perfect. Kate, it's me, not you.

[I've been thinking about it for the past few days and I think I know why. First, Kate is not a guilt-motivated person. She is capable of killing and forgetting, and of making her own decisions without dragging around her past mistakes. While this is, in most respects, a positive character trait, I have trouble relating to it. Second, she actually tends to take the "right" (where "right" is defined in-universe) decision: I can't actually think of a case where her errors have led to terrible consequences and in-universe, these consequences have been attributed to her choices. (I could be wrong here--I can't think of any, but that might just be related to the first point.) For me, this makes it difficult to become emotionally invested in her choices--it's not like she'll make a "wrong" one. ]

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When you combine this little problem with my Curran issues, all I'm left with to enjoy is the plot, humour, and worldbuilding-- usually more than enough to make the books incredibly readable. Unfortunately, there were a few other problems in this case, at least half of which are my fault. First, I listened to this on audio because it was readily available and my library hold on the book probably won't come through until January. This was a terrible decision. I strongly disliked the narrator: she has a nice voice and is quite emotive, but not only does she turn most of her "s's" into slushy "sh's"; she also does the worst accents I've had the displeasure of hearing since I last failed to talk my dad out of doing Monty Python imitations. I don't understand why a narrator would attempt accents they don't know. FYI, Southerners can pronounce diphthongs, Scots is different than Irish and both are different from whatever she was trying to do, Italians don't actually talkah likeah Chefah Boyardee, and I refuse to believe anyone talks like herrrr Ukrrrranian accent. It took significant effort to translate their voices into sane versions, and it left me little patience with internal inconsistencies.

**edit: as it turns out, who Did Not Do The Research? Carly. That's who. Originally, I griped about how panacea appeared to come out of nowhere, and should have been mentioned in the last book. I thought I had quite cleverly checked my facts--not only did I skim the sections; I also did a keyword search. But as it turns out, I was wrong--panacea was mentioned, although not by name. Relevant passage (spoilertagged for length):

[

“Call to the Frenchman,” Curran said. I almost jumped. He’d come up behind us and I didn’t hear him. “I don’t care what it costs, just get it.”
“Get what?” I stared at him.
“The Europeans have an herbal concoction,” Curran answered. “It reduces the chances of loupism by a third. They guard it like it’s gold, but we know somebody who smuggles it out.”
Doolittle’s face was mournful. “I took the liberty of calling the moment she came in, my lord.”
“And?”
Doolittle shook his head.
“Did you tell him who was asking?” Curran snarled.
“I did. The Frenchman sends his apologies. If he had any, he would immediately deliver it, but there is none to be had.”"
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I'm thrilled to discover that I was in error; knowing that the Andrews didn't just slap on the panacea plot makes me feel far more secure in the world they have created. However, I still do have issues with the way these features are added to the world. The Andrews tend to retcon as follows: someone mentions a worldbuilding revision and Kate, as an aside, infodumps to the reader, speaking as if about a familiar concept. Since Kate knew nothing of panacea in the last book, I still think presenting panacea in such a manner was a bit "off". Also, did you notice that panacea also became more effective in this book? Every time Kate infodumped matter-of-factly to the reader, it jerked me out of the narrative to think back, which led to recognizing a dolphin-pirate-infested boatload of questionable logic and internal inconsistencies. For example, why is Kate so worried about her potential future baby going loup? An infusion of her blood can cure Lyc V and we've seen just how powerful Roland's blood is. Her baby would most likely be unable to shift, let alone go loup.

[Since when is Curran a "First", and what does that even mean? Also, considering the value of his information, how on earth was Christopher allowed to leave with them? If I were Hugh, I would have killed him, as a dead body would technically have sufficed to keep his promise.]

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And why were the characters apparently playing a game of "how many people can we fit into an incredibly obvious trap"? Twice?

[


Although I understand the reasons for it, I found the "look, two named characters go loup! Oh noes!" plus convenient introduction and dearth of panacea rather clumsy; it was also clear from that point forward they would end up getting the panacea to save Maddie. I knew a character would die from the non-spoiler threads; I had Aunt B pegged from the moment Andrea started saying she would outlive everyone. Talk about a jinx.]

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My second issue was the Angst Subplot. My problems with Kate came down to issues with her lack of empathy.

[I found this painfully visible in two places. The first jarring instance was when she looks down at a heap of dead pirates and regrets how her life and Voron's teaching turned her into a person who enjoyed killing. She attempts to imagine who she might have been without Voron and the curse of her blood. I think it's supposed to be a thoughtful, wistful scene, but I simply found it disturbing: her entire focus was on her own feelings. She never once considers the people who are lying dead in front of her. She never regrets their deaths, or wonders if they had families, or considers what brought them to their end. The other instance is after Doolittle's death, when she is so dreadfully hurt by his fear at being restored by her magic that she has to turn away. I fail to understand why Kate would be so mortally wounded by someone not wanting to be turned into her puppet. Fear of the misuse of her power is not a refutation of Kate herself.]

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My problems with Curran were more serious.

[I find Curran's actions inexcusable. What I love about these books is that Kate recognises and tells him this. As Kate says, keeping his plan from her was a betrayal: "You put me through hell because you think I'm a bad liar....My life is in danger and you don't trust me enough. You have no idea how bad I feel." It doesn't actually matter what his motivations were. For him to have not offered an explanation was a fundamental violation of trust, and trust isn't like money in the bank: you can't just take a little out and expect the rest to stay there, safe and secure. In fact, there's an interesting double-standard here. When it all comes out, Curran berates Kate for not having more faith in him during the time when he was obviously reciprocating Lorelei's advances, saying, "All the shit we've been through should have bought me some time." Note that this comes from the man whose insane jealousy and, fundamentally, his lack of trust, causes him to attack anyone who got within yards of Kate. How can one trust someone who manipulates even as he lies and betrays? As Kate says, "I trusted you and you used it against me." At its core, what Curran has done is take away Kate's agency. He diminishes her by not giving her the right to have control over her own life and her own decisions. Worse still, he is ultimately unapologetic and tells her that he would do it again. Unlike Kate, I find his attitude fundamentally unforgivable.

Curran keeps saying that if the "price" is losing her love, then it's worth it. That attitude is in itself illuminating, for it indicates that Curran sees Kate through the lens of their relationship. He doesn't talk about the price of diminishing Kate as a person, of destroying her sense of self, of humiliating her, of forcing her into an emotional tailspin. The only consequence he talks about is whether she will still be his possession: "You being safe is more important to me than having you.". And while he selflessly decides that he is willing to lose her presence, his attitude is the heart of the problem. Curran sees Kate as a commodity, who should be protected and cherished at the curtailment of her free will. As I was mulling over my issues with this book, I started considering the parallels with the first few Dresden Files books (specifically, Fool Moon). I have a complex relationship with the Dresden Files, but one aspect I love is the way Dresden is repeatedly faced with the importance of informed choice: as he repeatedly discovers, no matter the good intentions, no one has the right to take away the agency of another. There is no clearer portrait of the imbalance between Kate and Curran than their "lines in the sand": her line is that she reserves the right to take responsibility for herself and battle her own enemies by herself. His line is that it's okay to betray her, it's okay to treat her as a child, it's okay to treat her as subhuman. So their ultimate contention, their lines in the sand, come down to whether Kate has agency. And in the end, this is a line that should never be crossed. I don't care how supernaturally sexy he is, how his hair curls, how much she likes kissing him, how broken they both are. Ultimately, he believes that he has the right to take away her free will.
And to me, that is not okay.]

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For all that, there were plenty of aspects to enjoy. My favourite character is most definitely Lord Megobari

[(Hugh d'Ambray, if you're getting confused by aliases.) ]

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Somehow, in my head, I cast him as a rather taller version of Young Cary Elwes--maybe it was the "draping himself across thrones" bit. I kept picturing him, as Bertie Wooster might say, as "laughing down from lazy eyelids and flicking a speck of dust from the irreproachable Mechlin lace at his wrists." Anyway, he has quickly become one of my favourite characters in the whole series. I also very much enjoyed the opening scene with Julie. I know Kate previously adopted her and took the role of surrogate parent, but the past book made this relationship far deeper and closer. For Kate, Julie has become, very literally, "blood of her blood." It was interesting to read Kate's explanation to Julie in that light: basically, Julie has inherited all of Kate's enemies as well as her biological strengths and weaknesses, just as a real child would. As always, the monsters of the world were creative and awesome. Beasts that attempt to run into you and stab you with their breastbones? Awesome. Literally aquatic pirates? Amazing. Overall, despite all of my whining about certain aspects of Kate and Curran's relationship, there were plenty of wonderful aspects to explore in Kate Daniels' increasingly colourful world.

Now knowing that panacea has at least a little basis in previous worldbuilding, call it ~3.2.