Magic Burns (Kate Daniels Series #2) -

~~Moved from GR~~


Magic Burns

by Ilona Andrews


Kate Daniels is getting the hang of her new life as a representative of the Order of Merciful Aid, but she's always happy to do a little mercenary work on the side. When Jim, her ex- mercenary partner and jaguar shapeshifter, asks her to handle a little problem with fire salamanders, she happily agrees. But of course, since this is Kate, things start getting weird. When she investigates the location where the rogue salamanders appeared, she finds an apparently bottomless pit that stinks of enchantment--not a good sign when waves of magic keep submerging the city. And that's when it get complex: a rogue coven of witches has vanished during a forbidden rite, and Kate ends up with one of their children in tow. Creepy purple undead creatures are stalking Kate and her charge, and there seems to be no way to avoid them. And as if that's not enough, a supernaturally fast thief has managed to break into the shapeshifter's keep, and now Kate is dragged back into contact with Curran, the dangerous and alluring Beast Lord. Here we go again....

I really enjoyed reading this, but for me, I think it's not the strongest entry in the series, mainly because it butchers an area of mythology that I'm actually pretty familiar with; more about that later. 


For me, the absolutely stellar aspect of the series is the world.  There are so many wonderful little details; for example, when the magic hits, the refrigerators stop working, so people either use special slow-melt enchanted ice or snow-sprite eggs. There is a State Undeath Commission to regulate the creation of vampires. Waves of magic stultified the development of technology and actually changed the development of the world. This is exactly how great Urban Fantasy should work: the advent of magic should warp the culture. There are tons of wonderful examples scattered throughout: the people of the world watch movies off mini-discs (a short-lived pre-DVD invention) and have never encountered cellphones, laptops, ipads, google, or sundry other technologies. It's both meticulously created and incredibly unique in the urban fantasy genre.


<span">However, I did have some issues with...well...I'd term it "butchery"...of Celtic mythology.   Fun fact: while "Irish" does indeed imply "Celtic", believe it or not, "Celtic" does not imply "Irish." Y Mabinogi is not a collection of stories about King Arthur. It is a collection of four major Welsh myths (well, you know what I mean--people and cultural identity that would eventually be fused into the Welsh), and while the Irish do appear briefly, it's mainly to serve as evil antagonists to the brave men of Cymru. It is not the case, as Kate claims, that "everyone knows" that Taliesin was a famous Irish bard, mainly because he was a famous Welsh bard. And while the etymology of Morfran is in doubt, his identity as the son of Ceridwen from the Welsh (not Irish, WELSH) myth of Taliesin is not in question. Yeah, I know, it's an urban fantasy book and deviates from reality. But at least the claim in the book is that she's talking about our world's mythology, and I'm a little OCD, so I tend to brood about such mistakes.  Grrr.  Another little oddity I noticed: while I don't actually have issues with it, I'm not really sure why everyone makes the Fomor into "sea demons"; being forced into the sea by the De Danann doesn't make you into a fishman. I'd also love to someday read a story that portrays them positively, since it seems to me that their only crime was being an indigenous population who happened to be in the way of the De Danann.

In terms of characters, I really enjoyed the introduction of Julie. Book 2 is the traditional point at which Our Hero ends up being landed with a stray dog or other random pet; cue comic relief and heartwarming moments. It is very fitting that Kate would one-up this by being landed with a stray child. As for Kate herself, I love how one of her standard problem-solving methods is to cut off a head or two. Several times in the series, she's stuck with the problem of moving a very heavy body and ends up just taking the head instead. She's always so pleased with herself for thinking of it that it always makes for a hilarious moment.  Curran, however, hasn't grown on me, and I'm still quite uncomfortable with the distinct Female Gaze in Kate's narration. These things will never change, but I've already ranted about them here and here, and there's really nothing else to say, except that this is the book with the infamous "you will beg me before [sleeping with me] and thank me after" lines come in. Ick.  In terms of supporting cast, I always enjoy the appearance of Ghastek et al, but I found myself a little disappointed with another character.  the entire time, I was waiting for

[Max Crest ]

(show spoiler)

to turn into something nasty. Preferably with scales.

[Just his name sounds like a toothpaste commercial actor with a Hollywood smile.]

(show spoiler)

I'll continue to wait; it just has to happen. Either that or he sells the pack out to Adonis for a magical facelift or something.

However, let's talk about strawmen, morals, and choices.

[When Kate tries to explain to Bran why Curran made the "right" choice in trading the cauldron lid for Julie, she explains the choice in terms of an example: whether to pick up a crying baby in the middle of the forest. But I'll contend that that is the wrong example: the choice should be between trading the lives of a thousand other crying babies for your baby. Bran acts as the selfish strawman and comments that Kate and Curran traded hundreds of lives for Julie's, and she says that's OK, because all the people who will risk their lives are warriors and it is their job and decision to risk their lives for others. But wait a second: that's just assuming that they win against the Fomor and manage to reclaim the cauldron. Since at that particular moment, they think they're fighting a lost cause, it's far more likely that the Fomor would basically devastate at least all of Atlanta, maybe all of the US. So they potentially sacrificed thousands of kids (and civilian adults) for their kid. Still as convinced as Kate that the morals here are black and white? Fortunately, with author collusion, it all works out perfectly and her moral viewpoint prevails. But there's no reason why it should have ended like that. So what was the right decision there? Was there one at all? ]

(show spoiler)

Despite these little drawbacks, as always, Kate's voice is hilarious, and the peanut gallery in my head repeatedly erupted into laughter. Here's a few (a very few) of her trenchant remarks:
"Negotiate. [Jim] wanted me to engage a lunatic who had already turned four people into smoking meat. Okay. I could do that. 'Alright, Jeremy!' I yelled into the night. 'Give me the salamander and I won’t cut your head off!'"


"Nothing kills a party like an oversize metal hedgehog."


"[Curran]'Your panties have a bow.' ... [Kate] 'What's wrong with bows?...I'm secure enough in myself to wear panties with bows on them. Besides, they are comfy and soft.'"


"I took a couple of forms from my desk, put them into the vamp's mouth, and pulled them up by their edges.'What are you doing?' Ghastek asked.'My hole puncher broke.'"


[To Kate] "You don't cause problems. An unpiloted vampire causes problems. You cause catastrophes."


[To Kate] "When I throw you out of the window, I want there to be no doubt the act was deliberate."


"My werewolf was allergic to tortoises."


Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars. The peanut gallery in me approves.