I let out a very undignified squeal when this unassuming package showed up on my doorstep completely out of the blue. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Here I am fairly wasting away for the fourth Kate Daniels book and then, swooping in like a risen phoenix, a brand, shiny new copy of Ilona Andrews' On the Edge saves the day. The first in a new series, do we even dare hope to two Andrews releases per year a la Patricia Briggs? The two of them together easily top my favorite urban fantasy writers and this new book (and series) does nothing to shake those stats, I'm happy to say. As with Briggs' Alpha and Omega series, I think it's important to go in with a clean slate, so to speak, not expecting Kate and Curran but ready to embrace a wholly new world, and I think you will enjoy this book on its own merits.
Rose Drayton lives on the Edge--the narrow strip of land between the Broken and the Weird. Yes, you read that right. She and the two little brothers she's raising live a dangerous half-life in between a world where magic is myth (the Broken) and another where it is king (the Weird). Edgers, as they are known, have their feet in both worlds but don't seem to belong to either. They, unlike, the denizens of the Broken are aware of the Weird in all its incomprehensibility. And, unlike the inhabitants of the Weird, they are awkwardly connected t0 (even long for at times) the banality of the Broken. When she was eighteen, Rose was effectively ostracized by the whole of the local town for letting loose a stream of magic and then refusing to marry one of the hometown boys. With her parents out of the picture, two half-magical little boys to take care of and train, and determined to control her own life, Rose takes an illegal job in the Broken and attempts to fly under the radar. And it works. Sort of. Until Lord Declan Camarine appears on her porch step, sword strapped to his back absolutely reeking blue blood Weird, announcing she will be his come hell or high water. Rose responds...less than favorably. And we have ourselves a story!
Once again Ilona Andrews plunges me into a fully realized world without a by your leave. And I love it. Like Kate's Atlanta it is full of complexity and contradiction and a wonderfully messy history. But it is also wilder, in a sense. Rose carries a rifle and she has to use it more than she'd like. The people in the Edge are almost clan-like in their politics. Feuds happen and they last for decades. Payment is harsh and exacted when and where the wronged party decides it will be. This series has a different focus than the more traditionally urban fantasy Kate Daniels series and, though in the end I didn't love it quite as much, I loved the world building and the children who actually seemed real to me. On the Edge is definitely heavier on the romance side of the urban fantasy spectrum and, as a result, Rose and Declan's relationship is more central than Kate and Curran's in the Magic series. Occasionally the descriptions and general admiring of each other's forms got a bit cloying for me, but the nice thing is that they are both well-rounded, compelling characters. At first I wasn't sure about Declan. He does start out a bit looming, take no prisoners, you will be mine for my taste. But there is more there than brawn and arrogance. And it is a very intriguing more. As far as Rose goes, she's had it rough and is still full of fire--just the way I like my UF heroines--but (and this is key) she has the creds and the depth to back it up. She's tough and at the same time she longs for education and training to harness and develop her powers. But instead she spends her days flogging her guts out to support her little brothers. She loves them unconditionally and is determined their lives will be better than hers. I love how full she feels as a character. I believed in her and I liked her. As for the boys, Jack and Georgie, you won't stand a chance against their charms and that is all. There is that trademark humor throughout the story as well and it really held the whole thing together, especially when the particularly creepy elements started rearing their ugly heads.
A great passage:
"What kind of animal do you turn into?" Declan asked.Jack narrowed his eyes into sly slits. "I'm not supposed to tell you.""Why not?""Because Rose told me not to talk to anybody about it."Declan leaned forward and fixed him with his eyes. Jack tensed. If Declan were a changeling, he'd be a wolf, Jack decided. A large white wolf. Very smart and with big teeth."Do you always do what Rose says?"Ooooh. That was a trick question. If he said he did, Declan would think he was a mama's boy. If he said he didn't, he'd have to tell him that he was a cat. Jack thought about it. "No. But I always know I'm supposed to.""I see," Declan said.Jack decided he had to explain, just so there wouldn't be any doubt that he wasn't a mama's boy. "My mom died. My dad left to hunt for treasure. I don't remember him. He was a good dad, I think, but he might have been not that smart, because when Grandma talks about him, she calls him 'that stupid man' sometimes. She can do that because he's her son, so I don't get mad.""Aha," Declan said."So until my dad comes back, I'm Rose's cub. So I have to do what she says.""Makes sense," Declan said."You like Rose?" Jack asked."Yes, I do.""Why?""Because she's smart, kind, and pretty. She stands up to me. That's hard to do."
Jack nodded. That made sense. Declan was hard to stand up to. He was tall and big and he had a sword. "Rose is prickly."
"She is certainly that.""She's nice, too," Jack said. "She takes care of me and Georgie. And if you ask her really nice, she'll make you a pie even if she's tired from work.""And she's funny," Declan said confidentially. "But I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell her that. If she knew I thought she was funny, she might not take me seriously. Women are like that."Jack nodded. He could keep a manly secret, and it wasn't something that Rose had to know. "If you win the challenges, you'll take Rose away.""That's the agreement," Declan said."Can we come?""Yes.""Breakfast!" Rose called.Jack started for the door and turned. His eyes flashed with amber fire. "I won't help you win," he said.Declan grinned. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
On the Edge comes out today.