Writing reviews here at GR has made me consider the fact that it is very easy for me to discuss and dissect what I find wrong with a book—crummy dialo...moreWriting reviews here at GR has made me consider the fact that it is very easy for me to discuss and dissect what I find wrong with a book—crummy dialogue, too-stupid-to-live characters, bad editing—but a whole lot harder to write about what is right with a book. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because I myself don’t normally look further when I like or love something. I just accept that I think it’s total awesomesauce without really delving further into the why of it. Icky things like moments of self-discovery, or even worse, personal growth, might happen if I really got into why I like the things that I do. However, for the purposes of a book review, just saying I like it isn’t enough. I’m assuming that any reader of a book review would also like an answer to the question of why as well.
So I'm going to expand my horizons a bit here and tell you what Ilona Andrews does right with Magic Bites. I'll do my best to stick to just this first book, though I've read the rest of the series through book four. The release of book five is what prompted me to come back and actually purchase and reread books one through four (they were originally loaned to me). The fact that I forked over cash for books I've already read before should tell you a bit about their quality, especially since I'm not a chronic rereader.
Setting: This story is set in Atlanta, a place I've never visited in real life, but if I could go through a Magical Portal of Fiction to this alternate Atlanta, I bet I'd recognize it right away. The way it is described--the fluctuating waves of magic and tech, forcing people to know how to live and function alternately with one and then the other in turn; modern skyscrapers crumbling from the top down from the corrupting forces of magic; roads full of magically-modified cars, horses, and the dying tech cars--is all so vivid. This is not just a painted backdrop for our main character, Kate Daniels, to fight the forces of evil and drool over supernatural hotties against. Oh no. This is a fully realized world with depth and character all its own.
Plot: This book involves Kate's attempts to investigate the murder of her guardian. I say "attempts" because her investigative skills are about on par with mine, though I don't carry a persuader stick in the form of a sword. The fact that she fully acknowledges her lack in this department makes this really work for me. Things get complicated quickly, and the plot moves along nicely, a lot of it action, which is fine to me. There are no love triangles, insta-love, insta-lust, or even meaningless sex, for which I nearly teared up in appreciation. We get a nice resolution in book one, though there are questions left unanswered mainly surrounding who Kate realiy is, why she chooses to be such a loner, and why she seems to be almost in hiding.
Characters: This is a short book--260 pages--and that means not a lot of page time to fully develop all secondary characters, but Kate herself is fully realized. For me, in a first person novel like this, if I can't stand the main character, it doesn't matter how well the author does in the other categories. I just won't continue reading from the point-of-view of someone that I want to see fall off a cliff and die. Fortunately, Kate is someone I like and can relate to. She can be sarcastic, but she never crosses the line into total snark. She's capable in her own arena, but she does have shortcomings. I thought she had a believable mix of strengths and weaknesses, and I was cheering for her to win the whole way. As mentioned before, she has a history, which is hinted at throughout the book, and my curiosity about that is what had me running for book two.
Well, that was way longer than I intended. For the quick wrap-up! If you are an urban fantasy fan, you are seriously missing out if you haven't read this yet. For the PNR peeps, this does heat up in the romance department in subsequent books, so if you don't mind reading what amounts to a slow-burn romance over the course of the series, instead of one book, then also definitely pick this up. For everyone else, um, I have no idea why you'd be reading my review, so I really have nothing helpful to say to you.