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Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Review by Drew Bittner
Ace Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0441014895
Date: 27 March, 2007 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Kate Daniels has a problem: her mentor and guardian has been murdered in the middle of a case and now his boss wants Kate to pick up where he left off.

She's a mercenary in the rough-and-tumble streets of Atlanta, but it's not the city we know. Magical energy flows like the tide, rising and falling; when it's high, technology doesn't work. Kate is able to navigate this world just fine, since she has some magical abilities, but not everyone is so lucky. And some are much stronger than she is.

Atlanta is ruled by two factions: the Masters of the Dead and the Pack. The Masters are necromancers, ruling over groups of vampires-- not sexy and powerful undead but twisted and nearly mindless ghouls-- and serving their own interests. The Pack is a militaristic collection of shapechangers ruled by Curran, a werelion. Kate's challenge lies in navigating the political maelstrom between these two factions, even as her investigation leads her to believe that neither side may be innocent.

Even worse, Kate finds herself plagued by Bono, an apprentice Master. His unwelcome attention is balanced by her growing fascination with Curran, a dynamic and complex figure who rules by wisdom as well as by force.

The murders Kate investigates are uniformly of young women--some of them uncannily like Kate, all of them with some degree of magical power. Kate delves into the nature of these murders and ties them to the death of her friend and mentor Greg, uncovering frightening connections that seem to lead nowhere.

Unfortunately, there are many who don't want Kate's investigation to get very far in any event. She fends off a number of attacks, even as the trail seems to grow more twisted and less plausible. Was Greg murdered by a vampire under the command of the Masters, by one of the Pack... or by something entirely new and much, much worse?

Whatever is going on, Kate will have to find out fast, before the shifting tides of magic and technology leave her high and dry-- against an enemy with designs on more than her life.

Ilona Andrews writes a pretty good debut novel, with a setting that is both familiar and strangely different. The idea of magic as a tidal force is different and offers some interesting possibilities, which hopefully will be explored in future volumes.

Kate is a character largely in the Anita Blake mold: competent, desirable, antagonistic to authority and sarcastic beyond reason. There is not a great deal that differentiates her from Anita at the moment, but there is potential here. Curran is similar, in that he's a powerful leader of supernaturals whose surface self is unlike his true nature; I'm not sure he has as much growth potential, being largely a romantic foil for Kate, but I could be wrong.

Although steeped in the current flavor of urban paranormal romance, Andrews shows a great deal of promise. Readers fond of Laurell K. Hamilton and Patricia Briggs may find her work a new source of reading pleasure.

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