Urban fantasy, particularly any variety can that can be summed up by, "So-and-so is a kick-ass woman who's totally different from all those other kick-ass women because she's got this one cool power no one else has called yet has to solve a mystery/murder/other crime and probably fall in love along the way, or at least get laid," has become a sub-genre that I love to hate. Partially it's because the market is saturated right now. Partially it's because so many of them seem like retreads following the paths of Diana Tregarde and Anita Blake. Most of them take place in a world where the normal person doesn't know anything about magic for an assortment of reasons, and half the time when I see the cover or read the blurb on the back, I kind of quietly gag and slide the book back into place on the shelf.
So why do I keep reading books that fall under that description? Because about half the time, even if it isn't a great book, it's still a fun read, and the other half the time, I feel like whoever is in charge of writing those blurbs on the backs of the books needs their ass kicked. And occasionally I pick up a book that rises above the genre conventions to give me something I really, truly enjoy.
I came across the Kate Daniels books because I've made a habit out of scanning the shelves at the bookstores for new authors. I stumbled across Magic Bites not long after it first came out and picked it up. I'll give any new author at least two books to really hook me unless the first book is really terrible. Magic Bites left me keeping an eye out for Magic Burns, and that second book left me more than eager for this third one.
I'm actually hesitant to describe much of the plot simply because boiling it down into a few quick sentences cannot do it justice. Anything I can write will probably leave anyone--fan of the genre or hater of the genre--rolling their eyes. The problem is, on reading, this book rises above the stereotypes with excellent characters, a tight, engaging plot, and an enjoyably unique world. Ilona Andrews knows her folklore and mythology. She does her research, and she does an admirable job of weaving it into the fabric of her world and her characters without disrupting them to show off how smart she is.
If you're looking for an engaging read, I definitely recommend these books. Each stands alone very well, but it's worth starting from the beginning. If the first book doesn't impress you overmuch, give it through the second, because I've found them to grow in depth, breadth, and craft.
I'm going to look forward to the 4th book in this series, and Ilona Andrews has a new series starting soon. I know I'm going to be snapping that up as soon as it's out, too.
Coming up next: At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things