Info to new readers – while this is the first book in a new series, and as such, should be perfectly accessible to readers completely unaware of Ilona Andrews’ previous books, it references A LOT of stuff that happened in the ten-book Kate Daniels series, as well as in Iron and Magic, a spin-off book of that series. I would highly recommend that you start there.
Aurelia Ryder arrives back in Atlanta after an eight-year absence, trying to keep her presence mostly under the radar. The last time she was in the city, her name was Julie Olsen Lennart, adopted daughter of magical powerhouse Kate Daniels and the former Beast Lord of the Atlanta pack, Curran Lennart. Now there’s a sinister prophecy requiring her return, but she can’t see her family or let them know she’s there, or Kate is destined to die. Aurelia/Julie needs to look into the grisly death of a clergyman and stop a malevolent magical force from gaining a foothold in Atlanta.
Of course, going back to her old home means stirring up a lot of old memories, and she runs into a lot of familiar faces along the way. Julie Olsen was known and loved by many, Aurelia Ryder is an unknown entity and there are a lot of people who are curious as to her origins and reasons for suddenly appearing in Atlanta, fighting monsters, and trying to right wrongs. Thankfully, after her eight years away, Julie doesn’t just have a new name, she has a different face and is quite the magical force to be reckoned with herself. She doesn’t intend any harm to come to her family, even if they can’t know she’s protecting them.
This novel started as free snippets posted on Ilona Andrews’ website because a Covid nurse e-mailed them and asked for something to read to take her mind off her gruelling work schedule. A few years back, in 2018, having finished the Kate Daniels series, the husband and wife team who make up Ilona Andrews considered doing a spin-off about Julie, Kate’s adopted daughter, but were a bit bored with the world and its characters and needed a break for a while. This nurse’s request seems to have made them revisit their already established paranormal fantasy world, moving the action eight years after the end of their last book, and switching to a different protagonist. A lot of the characters Aurelia/Julie interacts with and encounters over the course of the book first appeared in the Kate Daniels books, and while there is a lot of information given about the world, the magic system, the complex politics that keep it running, I suspect a reader would be a lot more comfortable having read at least some of the previous series before starting this one.
Full review on my blog.