This is the 10th book in a series that is arguably the pinnacle of urban fantasy writing to date. If you have any interest in urban fantasy with strong female characters, rich world-building, stellar smolder, and compelling action then this is the series for you. If you’ve picked up a few urban fantasy books and have been turned off by the cliched alpha-males, derivative world-building, and predictable plots, then this series is for you. If you like believably flawed and compelling female protagonists, then this series is for you.
Start at book #2 (#1 is ok, but #2+ is where things get great).
What follows is more of a discussion of the penultimate book than a strict review so you’ve been warned – here be spoilers.
Kate Daniels started out as a scrappy detective trying to stay under the radar of her powerful and murderous father Roland. Over 10 novels she’s evolved into a powerhouse in her own right, has a healthy marriage to shapeshifter Curran, a beloved toddler, and a plethora of loyal, talented, and powerful friends. When hundreds of people start going missing she’s drawn into the biggest threat she’s ever faced which would lead to the obliteration of all life on the planet. It also means upending the tenuous truce she’s forged with her unreliable father.
As the final book in the series this needed to have the greatest degree of peril and it delivers, creating a legendary evil so powerful that even the combined forces of all of Atlanta can’t vanquish it. It also gives us the final Kate vs. Roland showdown we’ve been waiting for since the very beginning. In many ways, all the books up till now showed Kate’s evolution into the person who could engage, and potentially succeed, in such high-stakes battles. It includes a wide cast of reader-favorites from earlier books, fun toddler hijinks, mystery, action, drama, peril, and sexy times. It is a compelling, well-written book and I would expect nothing less from these authors.
Compared to the average urban fantasy book (or at least those I’ve read) this is a 5-star read.
So why do I feel so let down? Why did I not tear through this book in a single day? Why do I feel like it’s a 3 or maybe even a 2-star book?
They write great books. The last few (like this and this)have been spectacular. The bar for a great Ilona Andrews book is high because they write such great books. Magic Triumphs doesn’t clear the bar.
Much like the Veronica Mars movie, this book is filled to the brim with fan service. We have to check in with the wide cast of characters that have populated the series. Which is a bummer because some of the middle books got bogged down in too many characters (I was so relieved when they finally removed Kate/Curran from all the pack politics). IMHO this book should have focused on Kate, Curran, Roland, and the Big Bad.
Kate and Curran don’t spend much time together. Their relationship has been one of the major themes of this series and it got short shift. Worse, Curran makes a massive decision in turning himself into a demigod without first discussing it with Kate and this massive betrayal is shrugged off because “welp it turned out alright in the end.”
This is a 10 book series built around the Kate vs. Roland conundrum and thus the tension between them plus the ultimate resolution deserved more than ~10 pages. They could have cut the whole unfunny “annoying telemarketer” gag and actually given Roland his due.
The pacing was too slow/cluttered at the beginning then rushed at the end. We spend chapters investigating the missing people then the final battle felt rushed. It also felt oddly impersonal – we follow Kate who is handling the big bad with her magic shield and we get a sense that a huge battle is taking place and that potentially key characters are dying, but the pending doom never feels fully realized. We don’t feel the sweat and blood of the battle. A few characters I’ve already forgotten from earlier books died but the whole thing felt like no big deal.
There is a thinly written sub-plot where we’re supposed to believe the pack is going to betray Kate/Curran for Roland.
The epilogue with Julie? Uh…does this sound like a story anybody was clamoring for? Eh I guess.
I liked this book just fine. It was fine. But after 10 books I was looking for epic. I was prepared to shed a tear or two. I wanted a dramatic and tense resolution with Roland. I wanted to see Kate and Curran together onscreen fighting as a team (and definitely not Curran sneaking off to gobble up a few Gods on the side). I wanted a gripping finale and it was fine.
Yes I gave it a 5-star review. It deserves it and I refuse to harsh on them with a low rating. But compared to others by this pair, it’s a 2-star for me. I would argue that most of their books from the past few years are better.