~~Moved from GR~~
by Ilona Andrews
In Kate Daniels' dystopian world of post-Shift Atlanta, waves of magic and technology alternately shut down spellwork and machinery, the cultish "People" control the minds of vampires, and tensions between shapeshifters and humans are growing. (Yes, this is a dystopia. My proof: the massive chocolate shortage.) Kate, recently mated to the Beast Lord Curran, is well aware of the dislike that human organisations such as the Merciful Order feel for the weres; in fact, shapeshifter backing might explain why Kate's new business venture as a private investigator has flopped so thoroughly. However, Kate is about to rue the day her boredom was broken. When she receives a call from a vampire navigator that one of his creatures has gone rogue, she soon realises that the sudden loss of magical control is far from an isolated incident. Since things clearly aren't complex enough, Kate finally receives her first case: find a missing inventor and his brand new doomsday device. On the positive side, at least she has a more interesting answer when asked how her day went...
To tell the truth, this is one of the many reviews I've been procrastinating on, in this case, because of an internal war between the irresistible urge to vent my viewpoint versus a bit of shame for being That Person. You know when you go out to see a fun comedy/adventure movie, and you invite your uptight friend along, and they ignore all the pulse-racing action scenes and hilarious one-liners and focus humorlessly on how politically unsound and sexist it was? Worse still, not only do they utterly fail to enjoy it, but on the ride home, they insist upon telling you precisely why? Fair warning--in this review, I'm going to be That Person. (Even more than usual.) I'm well aware I missed all the good stuff and focused on all the inessential underpinnings. Feel free to do the literary equivalent of turning up the volume on the radio to drown out That Person's voice.
As always, one of the most problematic aspects of the book for me was the relationship between Curran and Kate. Kate's sudden bout of angst irritated me; out of the blue, she decides that, despite Curran's repeated self-sacrificial heroics, he must just be using her and not love her at all. Especially since I didn't see a similar attitude in the last few books, I felt that this was a rather superficial introduction of conflict and didn't ring true to Kate's logical nature. However, as always I found Curran's domineering attitude more problematic. I'm not big of romance, and I've come to realise that I have very negative reactions to forceful, domineering alpha males, even in fiction: to me, their jealousy, possessiveness, and tightly wound anger reads as emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you don't share this reaction, then the vivid scenes where Curran is aggressively jealous may be enjoyable. Even I had a visceral reaction to them--just not a pleasant one. Here's some of the scenes (spoilertagged):
Yeah, yeah, I know. I have issues, I'm twisting the love and passion into control and jealousy, I don't get it. I actually accept all that. But to me, it's actually just difficult to read.
My problems with Curran have been present throughout the series, and even in this book, they've never stopped me from enjoying the story. Unfortunately, I had more serious issues with the plot itself. First was a somewhat trivial irritation: I don't think the Andrews have the hang of retconning. To me, a good retcon: (1) acknowledges the change ("why don't you have those sunlight hankies any more?"), and (2) explains it ("you have to be happy to cast the spell.") Personally, I sort of feel it insults my intelligence as a reader to introduce new characters and concepts (e.g. renders,
characters like Shane) but pretend they've been there all along. Yes, I do see the man behind the curtain; give me an excuse as to why he's there instead of trying to make him invisible.(show spoiler)
More problematic was the basis of conflict, which turned into a positive haystack of strawmen.
I know I've been busy blabbing about the negatives, but there are still plenty of wonderful story elements to go around. One of my favourite aspects of the book was the return of Julie, who mailed herself home in an effort to escape boarding school. I also loved some of the plot elements that were set up in this book; I can't wait to see how they play out in the rest of the series. I also have a deep and abiding love of Grendel, the Attack Poodle. There can never be too much pagetime with Grendel. I know this review was mainly negative; part of the problem may be that I read it right after another fantastic book and it hit the low spot in my emotions. Certainly I'm well aware that my reactions to Curran and my insistence on more logical villains are as irritating as analysing Scott Pilgrim's moral code in the car ride home.
Unfortunately, the problem with being That Person is that I just can't help my reaction, and since this is an online review, you, dear reader, actually did have a chance to kick me out of the metaphorical car.
So, since this ride was so much fun, how 'bout we do this again for Magic Rises?