>> Sunday, March 13, 2011
TITLE: Magic Bites
AUTHOR: Ilona Andrews
SETTING: Alternate version of the US city of Atlanta
TYPE: Urban fantasy
SERIES: Starts a series
REASON FOR READING: A lot of people whose taste in book I mostly share love this author.
Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for magic… One moment magic dominates, and cars stall and guns fail. The next, technology takes over and the defensive spells no longer protect your house from monsters. Here skyscrapers topple under onslaught of magic; werebears and werehyenas prowl through the ruined streets; and the Masters of the Dead, necromancers driven by their thirst of knowledge and wealth, pilot blood-crazed vampires with their minds. In this world lives Kate Daniels. Kate likes her sword a little too much and has a hard time controlling her mouth. The magic in her blood makes her a target, and she spent most of her life hiding in plain sight. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, she must choose to do nothing and remain safe or to pursue his preternatural killer. Hiding is easy, but the right choice is rarely easy…I think at some point I'm going to have to accept that urban fantasy just isn't for me. There are a couple of exceptions (I love Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon's series, for instance), but on the whole, I just haven't had the best of success with the genre.
Magic Bites sounded interesting. I loved the idea of a world in which technology and magic are locked in a struggle, and when one dominates, the other is useless. It's part post-apocalyptic, part fantasy, full of all sorts of creatures living in the half-ruined versions of today's cities, which degrade (sometimes quite suddenly) whenever magic is in ascendence.
Kate Daniels, our heroine, is a mercenary. Her job is to sort out people or beings who are breaking the rules and using their own power for bad. She has quite a lot of power herself, but doesn't deal well with authority, so she works outside the system.
However, when her mentor/guardian/friend Greg is mysteriously murdered, all changes. Greg was part of the system, being a member of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, and Kate needs their sanction (well, she needs information from them, anyway, and having their sanction wouldn't hurt) to go after the murderer.
In the course of her investigation, Kate has to deal with the politics of the different tribes and groups in her world. She learns about beings she didn't know existed and facts she never imagined about the creatures she does know. There are fights aplenty, as well as some intriguing male characters who seem as intrigued with Kate as she is with them -there are (of course, this is urban fantasy, after all) very clear hints of a love triangle emerging.
It sounds great, and if you ask me after I read such a description whether I would like it, I'd probably say I would, especially if you added that Kate is smart and strong and independent, and there is some intriguing mystery about where exactly her very cool powers come from. But having read it, I'm sorry to report I didn't enjoy it all that much.
I think part of the problem was that, as so many other urban fantasy novels, this centres quite a bit on political manouverings and plotting between factions or races. That's something that bores me when I read historical fiction, and it bores me just as much when I read it in other settings. I just found it very hard to care enough to pay attention to just why this group hates this other one and why they're undermining them in this or this other way.
Also this world which sounds so cool turned out to be a bit too gritty and ugly for me. This is something I'm quite embarrassed to confess; I feel like if I was a mature enough reader I should be able to cope with a gritty, grimy setting, or something like that, but I just can't. Well, I can cope, I just don't enjoy reading about it. As it is, however interesting and fresh and original this world was, and how much I liked Kate, I have no real interest in joining her in it again.
MY GRADE: This is a technically good book, but since I grade purely for my enjoyment, I'll give this a C+.