I have been reading Ilona Andrews, and been a rabid squealing fan girl for a lot longer than I have been blogging. Magic Breaks ended on a hell of a note, prompting me to look into plans for a time machine. Unfortunately for me I have neither the funds nor the educational background to enable me to go forward in time to read all the books, so I have had to wait. We’re on book 8 now, and I guess they have given up on a handy intro for new reader, which is fine, because you WILL NOT want to start here, this is not a stand-alone, not even a little bit, not even at all. This is the start of the conclusion arc to what I would hazard to suggest is the best Urban Fantasy series on the market today. If you haven’t already, you really need to go start at the beginning of the series. Yes, I think this series is that good, I recommend it to everyone regardless of usual genre preferences (though I’ll confess it does suffer a bit from first book syndrome, push through that and it gets to awesome) and this story is just that excellent. So you are going to want to back away if a rabid, squealing, middle-aged woman fan girling all over the place isn’t your cup of tea. Back away, because this could just be embarrassing for the both of us. Also, there will be spoilers for previous books, please, don’t let me ruin the surprise of this series for you if you haven’t started it already.
I was good last night, so good, and I didn’t start reading this at 12:01 when it popped up on my kindle. It was hard, but I got a good night’s sleep and started fresh in the morning. And then I READ it from start to finish in a coffee shop, even going back to old bad habits of walking around with the book in front of my face. (It is good to know that I still have excellent peripheral vision.) It seemed to go so fast and I almost wanted to slow down and savor it, but I couldn’t seem to help myself, I simply devoured it, feeling slightly bitter about how short it was. I double checked though, and it wasn’t short at all, it was just a really tight, action packed narrative.
Curran the Beast Lord is no more. He, Kate, and Julie have settled into their new home and are settling affairs to separate from the Pack in a peaceable way. Curran seems to be settling in to suburban life and fancy free lifestyle, and obviously the separation from the Pack suits Kate down to the ground. And then BAM, disaster strikes in the form of a missing person and difficulties in navigating Pack politics. And I just want to say that while I am uncertain precisely how I feel about Beast Lord Jim, Beast Lady Dali is every bit as incredible as I suspected she would be. She doesn’t have a huge amount of page time, but when she is there she has a helluva impact. The new Beast Lady rocks, and I am neither afraid to say it, nor ashamed to beg for at least more short stories with her.
But back to our main protagonists. The main theme of this story is family. Eduardo, our missing werebison has a humdinger of a family history. George, the one-armed werebear is having father difficulties as one might expect with a father like Mahon the executioner. And Curran, her defacto adopted brother, is naturally smack dab in the middle. Let me just say, while I was content with Curran leaving the Pack, and instinctively it made good sense to me, events and conversations in this installment made everything crystal clear. But the main familial conflict, is of course between Kate and her father Roland. Roland is, well how can I put this? He’s monstrous, of course, but it is like a poisoned dagger hidden behind sumptuous velvet. Everything you see on the current surface just beckons you to come closer and even touch, no matter how bad you know the things hidden behind the surface are. This is no one dimensional caricature of an evil villain.
A lot has apparently happened in Atlanta between Kate’s abduction in the previous book and since they are finally settling in and able to really assess things. Once the action starts and they truly get sucked back into Atlanta’s issues, we are at a dead run for the entire book. And as we go along more than just Curran’s status with the Pack change dramatically. There are a lot of motives to be questioned, particularly Jim and Raphael’s. I have to wonder if their choice of what property to disperse to separate Curran’s finances from the pack is really as self-serving as it appears-somehow I do not think it is, I am thinking sneaky Jim had a plan with this. And there is also a good start on a flexible power base for Curran and Kate that I think suits them better than the rigid Pack ever could have. We also saw where Kate’s character growth is taking her, and rather than her becoming increasingly more of an all-powerful Mary Sue, we are seeing real humanity and vulnerabilities. We are no longer talking about just the smart mouthed merc we first met. As powerful and competent as she is, and as much as her power grows, there are still frailties and mistakes and she is learning to work within this framework and within the family she has built. And we also have the first real insights into Roland’s plans and his intrigues. The stage for the final confrontation is finally set, and I am so glad Ilona Andrews made the decision to spread this story line out through a couple more books, because I just can’t envision the confrontation I see building being condensed into just one book.
So yes, this is something of a transitional book. But as far as I am concerned, if a series requires a transition, THIS is the way to do it. The in-book mystery is well plotted and interesting keeping me entertained throughout. And while it doesn’t really further advance the overall series story arc, it doesn’t feel like filler either. Rather than simply fluffing or padding the series, this book felt like we turned a corner and it was actually needed in order to place us on the path to the finish line. I am sure more twists and turns will be coming, but this sets the foundation for the rest of it.
5 stars from me, I can’t wait to see what the next books bring.