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Coming Soon: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

[August 28, 2018] Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Triumphs

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Kate Daniels #10 [The FINALE!!!]

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Release Date: August 28, 2018 [This date is subject to change]

The Overview: Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She’s made friends and enemies. She’s found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be. Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later, a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate’s doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows their time is up. Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Considering how hard I’ve been fangirling these last few months over all things Ilona Andrews, it’s no surprise my most anticipated release of Fall 2018 is Magic Triumphs, the Kate Daniels finale! I’m so sad it’s going to be over, but I take comfort in the spinoffs and various other amazing projects these authors are working on. I don’t even need to read the finale to tell you that Kate Daniels has already beat out all competition to become my favorite urban fantasy series. And to think I almost didn’t read past the first book!

Who else is excited for Magic Triumphs??!!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Title: Iron and Magic

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: The Iron Covenant #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast.

Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she’s trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify. -Goodreads

The Review:

Iron and Magic somehow managed to become my favorite Ilona Andrews book to date! It joined a very small percentage of books allowed on my all-time favorites list, and no one is more surprised at that than me.

It’s a true testament to these writers’ skills that they managed to make me fall in love with a book about a character I don’t even like. And furthermore to get me feeling deep empathy towards him. I can say with confidence coming out of this book that I’m 100% rooting for Hugh (even though he’s still an ass ;P). He was always an interesting character in the Kate Daniels series, written well and all, but I couldn’t think of a character I’d least like to read more about. I tell you what – it’s a good thing it wasn’t left up to me. Hugh’s story was brilliant!

One of my biggest joys in life is reading argument scenes between Ilona Andrews characters. Each person is so well-rounded (even the side characters) that they feel like real people. And the inter-character dynamics always gives them that extra spark of life and makes them incredibly relatable. Even though some of these conflicts are repeated across series, I find them so delightful that I don’t mind seeing it over and over. Because Hugh is such a hard-headed personality, the “intense negotiations” in Iron and Magic were especially satisfying. He has truly met his match in Elara.

The pacing in Iron and Magic was fantastic – leading up to a jam-packed ending that had me glued to the pages. I can’t believe how much rich content they managed to pack into the last 10% of the novel. So good! They were already my favorite authors, but that killer momentum is was truly set this novel ahead of the rest in my mind (for what it’s worth, Magic Strikes also landed on my favorites shelf – to give you an idea of the comparative quality we’re dealing with here).

I love the Kate Daniels series, but appreciated how far out of that familiar framework this story took me. It felt like a fresh fantasy read, but still had enough references and politics to keep it in the same vein. I can’t wait to see how things are going to come together in Magic Triumphs (the Kate Daniels finale) because I’m thinking there’s going to be even more crossover.

Overall, every aspect of Iron and Magic worked for me, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Recommendations: Iron and Magic takes place right between Magic Binds (book 9 of the Kate Daniels series) and Magic Triumphs (book 10 of KD). The story is a spinoff, and very much connected to the main series to the point where I’d urge you to catch up with Kate Daniels before reading Iron and Magic as this book discusses almost all of the major spoilers from that series. However, of you happen to be caught up and on the fence about this one – READ IT!!! You won’t regret it. :)

I’d like to thank Inscribe Digital (NYLA), Ilona Andrews, and Netgalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Iron and Magic!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Last Dragon Standing by Rachel Aaron

Last Dragon Standing

Title: Last Dragon Standing

Author: Rachel Aaron

Series: Heartstrikers #5

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Fantasy [Hybrid]

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Dear Reader, There is no way to write a blurb for this final book without spoiling all of the others. Suffice it to say, mysteries resolve, dragons war, pigeons abound, and Julius must risk himself in ways he never dreamed possible as Bob’s grand plan finally comes to fruition. But the Great Seer of the Heartstrikers isn’t the only one whose schemes are nearing completion. The Nameless End is coming, and even the machinations of the world’s most brilliant dragon seer might not be enough to stop it. As the world comes crashing down, it’s up Julius to prove what he’s always known: that seers can be wrong, and Nice Dragons don’t always finish last. -Goodreads

The Review:

My thoughts on this final book (reluctant disappointment) are vastly different from my thoughts of the series as a whole (happy feelings). The series is such a unique blend of genres and ideas, with some of the most memorable characters you’ll ever come across. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished (Book #3) is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. All that said, although I loved where the story ended, I had quite a few issues with how it got there and can’t help but feel let down by the overall execution of the last two novels of this series.

My #1 Issue: pacing. Rachel Aaron is also known for her super insightful 10000 words a day writing technique (one I’ve tried and it really makes a difference!). Unfortunate, I think all of that unbridled word vomit inevitably led to two final books that were unnecessarily drawn out, wordy, and dialogue-driven than necessary. At least 90% of Last Dragon Standing was strictly dialogue – rehashing ideas and other endless explanations and discussions. The 10% of actual plot advancement was amazing 5-star quality writing, it just took FOREVER to get there. I sincerely think the series could’ve turned out amazing had books 4 and 5 been condensed into a single novel. I did not pick up anything new in book 5 that wasn’t explained 10 different ways throughout book 4, and all of that endless dialogue effectively killed any momentum it had going for it coming into the finale. I maintain that a more concise flow would’ve made for an absolutely KILLER conclusion to this series. Overall, it felt very… self indulgent seems to harsh a phrase, but it definitely looks to me as though the story could’ve benefited from an more impartial outside perspective (such as a publishing house) by requiring a more intensive edit. That’s just my personal opinion on the matter based in part on comparing these last two books to her other trad-pub titles (which had perfect pacing).

Whatever the cause, the end result felt an opportunity wasted.

But is the series still worth reading? That’s an easy: absolutely!

I went into this final book with clear expectations, so I was specifically looking for things to go a certain way. At the end of book 4, I stated: “I swear if they try to rationalize and discuss things with the enemy in the final book, I’m going to throw a fit” … which I did. And: “If she can write at least 50% of the final book without endless dialogue and explanation, I’ll be happy” …which I wasn’t. So you can see how I set myself up for a bit of disappointment. However, the friends I read it with over at Fantasy Buddy Reads didn’t dive in with such a picky mindset, and for the most part loved the dialogue and character immersion this book had to offer. They had so much fun with it, and I was the raincloud on their parade (I hate it when I do that). Also keep in mind that this series produced one of my favorite books EVER (#3) and I still absolutely loved the vast majority of it. I am just feeling very over-critical of the final installment. For what it’s worth, I really like how it ended. :)

Recommendations: Heartstrikers is an excellent series to dive into if you like fun characters, dragons, great world-building, more dragons, and awesome moments. My personal issues with the final book aside, it’s a unique series well worth your time of you’re in the mood to have some fun. :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Unclean Spirits by M.L.N Hanover

Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover

Title: Unclean Spirit

Author: M.L.N. Hanover

Series: Black Sun’s Daughter

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 starts

The Overview: Jayné Heller thinks of herself as a realist, until she discovers reality isn’t quite what she thought it was. When her uncle Eric is murdered, Jayné travels to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it’s all hers — and vaster than she ever imagined. And along with properties across the world and an inexhaustible fortune, Eric left her a legacy of a different kind: his unfinished business with a cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College.Led by the ruthless Randolph Coin, the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination. Jayné finds it difficult to believe magic and demons can even exist, let alone be responsible for the death of her uncle. But Coin sees Eric’s heir as a threat to be eliminated by any means — magical or mundane — so Jayné had better start believing in something to save her own life. -Goodreads

The Review:

After finishing Unclean Spirits, I’d like to lament a few disappointments with a wishlist:

#1: I wish the characters had been developed, not just better, but at all.

#2: I wish the concept of the “unclean spirits” would’ve played a stronger, more direct role in the story.

#3: I wish the plot hadn’t been so simple.

#4: I wish all of the things I’ve come to love about this author had been represented in this novel.

Daniel Abraham (aka MLN Hanover, aka 1/2 of James S. A. Corey) has a pretty solid spot in my top authors list for his Long Price Quartet and Expanse series. I appreciate the subtle beauty of his writing, his interesting story ideas, and (most importantly), the rich characters he creates filled with so much depth they feel like real people (are you all sick of hearing me talk about Avasarala – aka my homegirl?). He’s literally my number one example for how to write amazing characters, so what happened here?

My disappointment in Unclean Spirits was a little more acute due to the lack of all of the essential components I’ve come to associate with this author. I’m actually kind of shocked that it was so sub-par of his usual standard. Minus the profanity, the delivery of this book read very much like a thin YA novel, lacking in any real substance or development (with an insta-lust on top of it all). It was practically a case study in telling vs showing where the characters would spring up feelings, convictions, and even magical talents without any groundwork to show the reader how they got to those points. Because of this I was never invested in the story – almost comatose with impartiality.

The concept of the book (revolving around parasitic “unclean spirits”) was an interesting one, and in fact my only positive takeaway from the book was the scientific discussion about the spirits vs earthen parasites. However, they didn’t play a significant role in the story other than on the periphery. I wanted to see some badass body-hopping and instead I got a big thug possessed by a spirit and lots of speculation and theory.

Overall, the book didn’t give me anything to sink my teeth into and had it been any other author I may have DNFed. It wasn’t the worst urban fantasy I’ve ever read, but it was far from the best.

Series status: I probably will not continue anytime soon (if at all). At least until I knock out the dozen or so other UFs on my TBR. I own this whole series, so we’ll see if it makes it past the next library purge. I admit to being mildly curious if all of the things I was missing develop later in the series because, despite my experience with this first book, I know the brilliance the author is capable of. We’ll see.

Recommendations: This would be a difficult one for me to recommend. If you’re thinking to read because you love the author (as I did), my inclination is to suggest you pass (on this one – everything else by him is superb). If you’re thinking to read this because you like urban fantasy, I wouldn’t say pass, but there are plethora of titles I’d hand you first.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews

Title: Burn for Me

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Hidden Legacy #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy / PNR

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire. Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive. Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world. –Goodreads

The Review:

Everybody who said “ignore the cover, this book is awesome!” was absolutely right.

I should preface this review by saying that I recently got up to date with the Kate Daniels series (my current holy grail of urban fantasy), so I’m still riding the high from all the amazing things I experienced there. My opinion of Burn for Me was definitely influenced by my feelings for these authors in general. Had I read this first, I’m certain the rating would’ve been more conservative because I’d have still been trying to assess how I felt about the writing. Since I already know what these authors are capable of, I can’t help but have my rating reflect my unbridled excitement to be reading more from them.

I read Burn for Me with my FBR Goodreads group, and one friend summed it up perfectly: if you’re a fan of the Ilona Andrews formula, you’ll probably love this one too. As you can see from the cover, it’s clearly marketed towards / written for more of a paranormal romance fan base (as opposed to urban fantasy). This is also evident in the way they told the story (there’s a heightened focus on half-naked bodies). However, where most of the PNR books I’ve read focus mostly on the romance aspect and do just enough with everything else to get by, that was so not the case here – the plot and world building were just as robust, and in fact the “love story” kind of took a backseat at times.

The most compelling part of this book for me was the attention to detail – basically all of the “setup” components that set the base for the story, including backstories, alternate world histories, and magic systems. I also loved the fun dynamics between the main character and her family. All the characters were good, but my favorite was the Grandma. :)

I was worried the characters and the narrative would be similar enough to KD to feel like a knockoff series. While the snarky comebacks, feisty MCs, and relationship dynamics are in the same spirit as what I’ve seen before, it was presented differently enough alleviate that worry. Overall, they did a great job presenting characters and a world that felt fresh. The things that were similar (like the grumpy love interest) were so much fun to read that I probably gave it a pass anyway. I actually thought this was a much better start to a new series than KD, so that should count for something.

Analytically, I can see the book isn’t perfect, but from a pure enjoyment, x-factor standpoint I enjoyed it thoroughly and can’t wait to see where the story goes next.

Recommendations: Read all the things Ilona Andrews. I’m totally biased, and justifiably so considering how much I love these authors. I’d definitely hand this book to UF readers who don’t mind a little more of a romance focus. Burn for Me was a lot of fun and one of the more entertaining books I’ve read this year. Recommended if you like humor, snark, magic, and romance.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Haunted by Kelley Armstrong

Haunted by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Haunted

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Series: Women of the Otherworld

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: The afterlife isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… Former supernatural superpower Eve Levine has broken all the rules. But she’s never broken a promise—not even during the three years she’s spent in the afterworld. So when the Fates call in a debt she gave her word she’d pay, she has no choice but to comply. For centuries one of the ghost world’s wickedest creatures has been loosed on humanity, thwarting every attempt to retrieve her. Now it has fallen to Eve to capture this demi-demon known as the Nix, who inhabits the bodies of would-be killers, compelling them to complete their deadly acts. It’s a mission that becomes all too personal when the Nix targets those Eve loves most—including Savannah, the daughter she left on earth. But can a renegade witch succeed where a host of angels have failed? -Goodreads

The Review:

Haunted is my least favorite WotO book to date. I liked the main character and how she tied into the series as a whole, but I can’t say that I enjoyed the story that much. First off, it was a bit too erratic, bouncing around from weird place to weirder place so often that I never really felt grounded in the story. Granted, it takes place primarily in the afterlife where the “rules” of what’s possible are a lot more flexible, but it was actually the main murder mystery plotline that I wish had been more straightforward (although I do give kudos for the incorporation of actual murders from our world for total story immersion – very creative).

Another issue I had is 100% what I would call a “personal problem” and not something I really hold the book at fault for. I just have a hard time reading about bad things happening to children. It wasn’t graphic or anything, but it’s one of my vulnerable “nope” subjects in books. Almost anything else I can compartmentalize as “it’s just a book,” but not that. The other thing that got me was a mass-shooting scene. With all the horrible shit that’s happening in the world right now, I need books to escape, not to be reminded. Objectively, I can look at all of these as story elements that fit the plot and characters, but emotionally and mentally I have to admit that I just did not enjoy reading about them.

Despite my lower rating and opinion of this book, I recognize it as an important component to getting the full experience out of this series, now that I have an idea how the afterlife and its beings function. I also appreciate how with each book the scope of characters we care about broadens. I’m still earnestly looking forward to the next book.

Recommendations: overall, the series is still a success for me, but I’m finally forced to admit agreement to the quality decline. Because of that, I’d probably start my recommendations with a few other urban fantasies that are more consistent. However, this series is by no means down and out – I’m very hopeful I’ll enjoy the rest of it. We shall see. :)

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by Niki Hawkes