May 31, 2011

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

So I've been sitting on this one for a little while. Mostly because things like having a baby got in the way of me actually writing the review. Pesky labor and delivery . . . pesky recovery and sleep deprivation. But I am gradually coming back to the real world (or at least the virtual literary one) and I wanted to get my review up on release day if at all possible. I can't believe it's been three years since I first discovered this fabulous series. So much has happened in those three years. Kate and Co. have had five seriously awesome adventures and the series has skyrocketed to the top of my favorite urban fantasy series ever. I look forward all year long to the new Kate Daniels book and after the excellence that was the last book, I was positively giddy with delight to receive an ARC of Magic Slays. The fifth book in as solid a series as this one is a delicate matter, I think. You're all in as far as the characters go. Their history is mapped out and complex. At the same time, it can be difficult to take them new places and maintain tension and reader interest without compromising the integrity of the plot and multiple character arcs. I'm happy to say this entry in the series is a worthy one and I didn't look up once after setting my eyes on that first page.

A word of warning: This is the fifth book in the series, and there are going to be some inherent spoilers in this review as a matter of course. I do apologize, but it's basically unavoidable at this point. Go grab yourself a copy of Magic Bites and discover the crunchy Kate goodness for yourself!

Kate's all set up at Cutting Edge Investigations. She's got an office building, courtesy of the Pack. She's got her trusty attack poodle Grendel at her side. But the population of Atlanta hasn't exactly been knocking down her door lately in need of investigating. Doesn't help that she's an ex-member of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid. Doesn't help that her mate just happens to be the Beast Lord himself. What does help is her friend and fellow ex-Knight Andrea is back in town and looking for something to shoot. Fortunately, the newly minted partners don't have to wait long for a target. Paying work arrives literally on their doorstep in the form of an escaped vampire. Ghastek, Kate's contact and sometime nemesis with the People, enlists Kate's help in rooting out the cause behind the rogue vamp. But before she can get too far on that case, Kate receives a visit from one of the elite Red Guard, a force she reckoned with once before in the course of her role in the Midnight Games. Desperate to locate a kidnapped charge, the Guard offer a sweaty wad of cash in exchange for Kate's services tracking down the missing scientist and the even more mysterious contraption he was working on. Hoping to establish her business and herself independent of the Pack and her high-ranking role in it, Kate takes on both cases and, in true Kate fashion, cuts a swath through magic-torched Atlanta in her quest to solve them.

I was so very happy to have Andrea back in this installment! I love that woman and I love the prickly but deep friendship she shares with Kate. With Andrea's guns and Kate's sword, these two warriors pack a serious punch when it comes to hunting down the bad guys. And, boy, are the bad guys big in this one. Which brings me to the second thing I love about this book (and the series in general). Ilona Andrews continues to play with world mythology in such interesting and fresh ways. The gods and legends from all over the globe, from so many different cultures, come into play in this series and the tradition continues in Magic Slays, with  awesome results. We also get more insight than I was expecting into the other side of Kate's heritage--her mother and the man she called father. Not a little of it is painful, sometimes devastating, and I am vastly interested to see how Kate deals with her newfound knowledge. To balance the weighty, there is quite a bit of excellent banter between Kate and the people who love her. A favorite passage between Andrea and Kate:
"This is the hand I slapped Aunt B with."

"Maybe you should have it gold plated."

"Here, you can touch it, since you're my best friend."
And another between Kate and Curran (taken from one of my very favorite scenes in the book):
"You can't tell me what to do."

"Yes I can. Listen, this is me telling you what you will not do."

I raised the cookbook and tapped him on the nose. Bad cat.
Hehe. I could listen to them spar all day long. The relationship between Kate and Curran grows in this book, and interestingly, it's mostly through the conversations they have. Both of their first instincts is to settle arguments with a nice fight until, bruised and bloody, one or the other is forced to call Uncle. But somehow they manage to actually talk here. I love it when they do that. I love the sure sense I get when reading these books that the authors know exactly where it's going. Amid each individual mystery and/or crisis, we never lose sight of the overarching issue, of the inevitable showdown Kate's been preparing for her entire life. This is especially evident in the heart-palpating conclusion. I didn't see it coming. And it has me thirsting for more. Magic Slays is a rocking good time. Crunchy Kate goodness at its best.
Magic Slays is due out today!

Reading Order:
Magic Bites 
Magic Burns
Magic Strikes

Magic Bleeds
Magic Slays

Linkage
Babbling About Books, and More Review
Fiction Vixen Review
My Bookish Ways Review
Night Owl Sci-Fi Review
Paperback Dolls Review
Smexy Books Review

May 19, 2011

Music Thursday

For all you M. Ward fans out there, here's a video of the man playing an acoustic version of "Chinese Translation" live at the Bing Lounge in Portland. DH showed it to me last night, and I don't know about you, but I think it's . . . well . . . fabulous.
What music is getting you through your Thursday?

May 17, 2011

The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn

Oh, how I love this series. I'm sure you all know very well just how much I love this series. I look forward to the new installment in Lady Julia's and Mr. Nicholas Brisbane's adventures all the year long. And by the time I get my hands on the latest book, I feel justified engaging in a little happy dancing as I have exhibited uncommon patience going so long without their inimitable company. And that's essentially what I did when I saw The Dark Enquiry pop up on NetGalley. They came through for me last year with Dark Road to Darjeeling and they came through once again this year. Speaking of titles, I'm liking the new page the series has turned with the inclusion of "dark" in the titles. I liked how the first three "silent" titles reflected what the reader would find in those installments, and I'm enjoying the darker turn the tone of books four and five have taken. Also--the covers. I got a particular kick when I ran across the passage where Julia wears this exact dress in the book. Peacock feathers and all. It gives me a little thrill whenever the cover gods get little things like that right.

A Warning: If you have not read the previous four books, please proceed with the utmost caution. Beyond this point, there be unavoidable spoilers. I highly recommend doing yourself a favor you won't regret and procuring a copy of the first book and applying yourself assiduously to plumbing its marvelous depths. Go on, now. Quick like a bunny!

Lady Julia and Brisbane are finally returned home to London from their harrowing adventure abroad. For awhile their attentions and faculties are occupied setting up house in their new home and puttering about Brisbane's private enquiry office. Julia has taken up a number of new interests and hobbies, including explosives and photography, in the manner only she can. That is to say, with both striking verve and incendiary results. But it isn't long before real life comes back to haunt them both in the form of Julia's oldest (and stuffiest) brother Bellmont. It is only by the merest chance that Julia discovers the scintillating fact that Bellmont has become Brisbane's latest client. And when both Brisbane and Bellmont warn her off in no uncertain terms, she becomes even more determined to ferret out which of Brisbane's various and sundry skills Monty could possibly be in such desperate need of. And so, quite literally following in her husband's footsteps, she goes undercover herself and follows him to the popular (if somewhat questionable) Spirit Club. It is there that she finds a little more than she bargained for in the form of a disturbing séance, a number of powerful and colorful patrons, and--of course--a dead body. Forced to combine their powers of deduction in order to survive, Julia and Brisbane are thrown into an investigation so serpentine it may prove their undoing.

The Dark Enquiry was exactly the book I was hoping it would be. I found myself instantly involved at its inception, wildly satisfied at its conclusion, and utterly absorbed with everything in between. It was surprisingly soothing to be back in London once more, back where it all began, yet with two such changed, yet familiar protagonists. I was fascinated to see how Julia and Brisbane handled their still evolving relationship in the midst of their old turf, their old friends, and especially their old ghosts. The results were both beautiful and painful. My heart felt squeezed on both ends of the spectrum. You see, the nature of this particular mystery was very personal. And not just in that it involved Julia's brother. The reach of its twisty tentacles stretched across several Marches as well as back quite a ways into Brisbane's murky past. More private details come out into the light of day than anyone is comfortable with, and the whole array is so deftly handled that I simply sat back and applauded such consummate storytelling at work. It's an emotional experience following your favorite characters as they are put through such subtle and refining paces. I find myself holding my breath, never quite certain whether or not they will emerge intact. I thoroughly enjoyed Plum's involvement in this case and continue to get enormous enjoyment from his fledgling working relationship with Brisbane in general. It was, as always, a delight to spend any time at all with Lord March. And I can never see too much of Aquinas or Fleur or Portia. But, in the end, it's always about Julia and Brisbane. It was from that first arresting sentence of Silent in the Grave, and it will be for as long as this superb and sophisticated series continues. I ached for them and was proud of them in this book and I will read about them for as long as the talented Deanna Raybourn cares to write about them. Finest kind and an instant entry on my Best of 2011 list.

The Dark Enquiry is due out June 21st.


Reading Order: 
Silent in the Grave (my review)
Silent in the Sanctuary (my review)
Silent on the Moor (my review)
Dark Road to Darjeeling (my review)
The Dark Enquiry


Linkage
Book Harbinger Review
Diary of a Book Addict Review

May 13, 2011

The Scorpio Races Cover

And here is the U.S. cover for Maggie Stiefvater's upcoming standalone novel The Scorpio Races. Due out October 18th, precious few details are floating around about this one. But I am certainly intrigued. So far my favorite "official" words (of the like 20 there are being used to describe it) are: pair, race, and cliff. Of course, Maggie's are pretty good, too: blood, beaches, and kissing. I kind of like that we're not being inundated with info on this one. Makes for a refreshing change of pace. And I'm digging that pretty cover. So, I'm thinking I'll definitely be checking it out just as soon as I can.