~~Moved from GR~~
by Ilona Andrews
The Kate Daniels series has got to be one of the most highly regarded urban fantasy series out there, with reason. Kate is an incredibly entertaining narrator: she's sharp, spunky, and a lot of fun. The world is creative and well-developed, and the plots (or, at least, those that I've seen) are tight and cleverly constructed. The book also do an impressive tightrope act, balancing precariously right on the borders of PNR (Paranormal romance) and UF (urban fantasy) and strongly appealing to audiences from both camps.
Kate and I had a rocky start. I read the first book and my detestation for Curran was so strong that it outweighed my appreciation for Kate. When I was finally galvanized to try again, I decided to test things out a little later in the series: this book, in fact. I can now say that I have definitely joined the legion of Kate Daniels fans. However, I also have discovered that my loathing for Curran knows no bounds. He has rocketed up to the top of my HIT (heroes I'd trash) list, pushing forcefully past Adam Hauptman to the #1 spot. I'm really not a fan of PNR--not because I have an anti-relationship thing, but because melting inner goddesses embarrass me and alpha-male-"masterful men" automatically put my teeth on edge. See, considering even his title of "Beast Lord" pisses me off, it's probably unsurprising that Curran's wooing tactics make me feel physically ill. In the last book, he informed Kate that not only would he have her, but that she would
"Beg him before and thank him after".
Yes, he says it in those terms. In this book, he repeatedly asserts the same sentiments and backs up his general creep by breaking into her house and watching her while she sleeps. I don't care if it's a shapeshifter cultural thing; I just don't find stalking, domination, and humiliation to be sexy. And no, I didn't find the resolution of The Dinner Thing funny; I apparently have no sense of humour. I don't like dominating alpha-type characters paired with lower-ranked women; most of the relationship conflict ends up being about the female learning to finagle her way around the elephantine ego in the room while the man tries (mainly unsuccessfully, in my opinion) to shake off his possessive, dictatorial, egocentric, alpha-male-ness. I think that the way this struggle is explored here, as well as in the Mercy Thompson series, is a valid and entertaining approach; it's just not a conflict I enjoy reading about.
There's one other aspect of the books that didn't quite suit me. I recently discovered that there does indeed exist a female counterpart to the Male Gaze (mainly because I think a transparently female gaze is a relatively recent development in fiction), and wow, it's here in spades, from the descriptions of Raphael to the assessments of Derek. Here, take a few Curran-based examples:
Curran looked me over slowly. I did the same, matching him smirk for smirk... grey eyes...I looked into those eyes and saw tiny gold sparks dancing in their depths.
I hadn't exactly forgotten what he looked like without clothes. I just didn't remember it being quite so tempting...it was like walking on a high bridge: don't look down. Definitely not below his waist....oh my. He sank into the hot water near me. I remembered to breathe.
Weirdly, Female Gaze actually bothers me more than Male Gaze. The latter just irritates me. The former makes me uncomfortable, I think because I feel like I should understand it and I honestly just don't.
But apart from these issues, there's a lot to love in this book, and far more than just the intricate worldbuilding and complex plot. The supporting cast is also rounded and entertaining; from Doctor Doolittle to Andrea Nash, I found the characters both fun and sympathetic. Kate Daniels makes for a wonderful narrator: she's sympathetic, practical, and downright hilarious. And yes, this includes most of the vocal interactions between Kate and Curran. A few examples:
[Curran] "Why is it you always attract creeps?"
[Kate] "You tell me."
I realized that for the first time in the six months I had known Curran, we had managed to have a conversation and part ways without wanting to kill each other. I found that fact deeply troubling.
"Yep." Eloquence-R-Us. When it trouble, keep it monosyllabic--safer that way.
"I was telling the people in my head to shut up."
"They have medication for that."
What kind of shapeshifter has orange fur anyway?"
Now I'd seen everything. Well, at least he didn't steal my baby.
"I need your help."
"Who are we killing?"
"Do you have a pen?”
And if you think the quotes are funny, just wait till you try the book. From cross-eyed vegan tigers with short-term memory loss to bra-shopping advice from a sometimes-transvestite shapeshifter, the book is a riot from the first to last page. So stop reading reviews and go find a Kate Daniels book--no matter what your reading preferences are, you'll find something in there to love.