~~Moved from GR~~
Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels #4)
by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels can't catch a break. The Dinner (yes, that dinner) doesn't turn out as planned, but she has scarcely had time to start moping before disaster truly strikes: a mysterious cloaked individual is running around the city, apparently spreading horrific plagues for no other reason other than the general fun of it. Guess who the Merciful Order sends to get a handle on the problem? And guess who wants in on the investigation?
If you've read the other Kate Daniels books, this is a great addition to the series, and we get a little closer to the Big Plot Arc. If you're new to the series, trust me, you don't want to start here. Even the previous book (Magic Strikes) makes a better starting point.
I really enjoyed this. I'm not liking Curran any better, but I love the world and the voice of Kate herself. I also really like most of the supporting cast. The only exception is probably Kate's boss. It seems to me that he was retconned into generalized intolerant villainhood, because as far as I remember, he was quite pleasant in the first few books. Now he's Mr. Intolerant Asshat. Otherwise, though, one of my favourite aspects of the series is the very large ensemble of characters, and plenty of them make an appearance in the novel. I have to say that Grendel the Attack Poodle is now my absolute favourite character.
It seems to me that the books have become progressively more PNR-flavored, so I think this book appeals more to that audience. The story has what I consider a hallmark of PNR: the protagonists on the clock, with a literal deadline from a mass murderer who has the potential to destroy the city and/or world, but they're still taking time out for angst and romance. It's well done--Kate makes it clear that she has something of a wartime romance motivation--but all the same, a lot of energy is being put into the love stuff...and a lot of stuff I am actually a bit too squeamish for. I grew up on the Victorian Significant Elipsis ("...") when things got hot and heavy, and honestly, I'm still partial to it...everything else is just TMI for me--I'm just not good with PNR. For all that, I adored the welding/catnip/weights-bench/chair stuff. The chair! Heh.
And even if the romance is now more centre-stage, there is still plenty of action--and violence. Kate's propensity towards horrific injury is impressive. She's up there with Harry Dresden in terms of the sheer damage dealt out to her during each book, and I think she tops him in potentially fatal injuries. She's been effectively disemboweled at least once per book, had her kneecap shredded to pulp, been poisoned, shot, scratched, and bitten, had her hip smashed, leg snapped, ribs broken at least once per book, etc, etc. She actually becomes unconscious at least three times per book because of her injuries. Holy. And unlike Dresden, she apparently utilizes InstaHeal to repair all those bones--all four books take place in a span of less than one year. While not really explained, this speed of healing could be completely reasonable; for all I know, her bones could have been restored by magic.
In terms of Curran, I know my Issues (capital I) with Curran are basically just me; for me, telling a woman that he will "have her" and that she will "beg him before and thank him after" is basically an (unforgivable) kick the dog. So, who's more obnoxious: the man who orders a woman to serve him dinner in bra and panties and to pick up trash off of his bed in the same, or the guy who installs security cameras without the girl's permission all over her garage and monitors them constantly? I'm honestly not sure. I tend to be against alpha he-man men in general, but there are a few I am fond of, such as Emerson from the Amelia Peabody series (first book: Crocodile on the Sandbank). The dealbreaker for me is a huge status/power differential. While Emerson's social status/power is basically equivalent to Amelia's, and actually lower in some aspects, Curran (and Mercy's Adam) are in the Mr. Rochester God Mode: they hold effectively limitless power over their women. Said women actually need to be cautious about invoking the wrath of their mates because the potential consequences are serious, and when one person has to give everything up, it's going to be the woman. I've never been partial to peasant-girl-marries-prince dynamics, and that's one element of what's happening here; I find it repugnant when it is combined with extreme possessiveness and need for dominance. The grittier reality of the power dynamics between Cinderella and her Prince are, however, standard UF fare and appear to be palatable to most readers. Intellectually, I understand that the scenes where Curran loses control and devolves into unpredictable violence are supposed to be sexy; however, the only emotion it stirs in me is panic.
The selling point for me, yet again, is the world. The alternating waves of magic and tech are genius. They effectively stultify technological innovation while allowing for tremendous creativity in the magical replacements for tech. I love everything from the "15 minutes of intense chanting" needed to start an old magically-driven car. Just amazing. I also cannot get over how much I love the vampires in this world. Take that, Mr. Sparkle-in-the-sunlight! One other thing I found amusing: the magic must have completely altered the weather. Hotlanta keeps having snow and everyone treats it like it's normal. Our Atlanta has maybe a few tiny dustings per year, with all the snow melting away within a day or so.
Overall, I think this is one of my favourite dystopian worlds. And yes, it is a dystopia. There is a chocolate shortage. Need I say more?