Husband-and-wife writing team Ilona Gordon and Gordon Andrews, who write under the singular byline Ilona Andrews, told Tor.com that their new book, Magic Strikes, is the third in their Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. The series springs from the question: what would happen if magic actually returned and struggled to force out technology.
“In Kate’s world the magic is back—it comes and goes in waves and the consequences are devastating,” Ilona said in an interview. “The magic destroys technological achievements. All sorts of odd creatures appear: shapeshifters, vampires, demons, mythological beasts, and so on. Our world is populated with magic heavy hitters.”
“We’re both fans of martial arts tournament movies, and since we had so many magical creatures, we thought, ‘Wouldn’t t be cool to force them into a tournament together?’” Gordon added. “You always hear discussions on whether a werewolf can take a vampire, or who would win, a minotaur or a manticore. Now you get to find out.”
Kate Daniels is an agent of the Order of Merciful Aid, which means she helps people with magical emergencies. “One day she might be getting an elderly banshee off a telephone poll, the next she might be killing a harpy,” Ilona said. “She is trying to make it home after a rough day of work, when a phone call from Saiman, an expert in all things magic, makes her change her plans. Apparently, Derek, a young werewolf and Kate’s friend, tried to break into Saiman’s apartment to steal tickets to the preternatural fighting tournament and got himself caught. Saiman proposes a deal: he’ll let Derek go if Kate helps him evaluate one of the teams at the games. She accepts. Unfortunately, things rarely go as planned. Soon Derek is hurt and to save him, Kate must face an enemy that threatens not only her life, but the existence of all shapeshifters.”
The book required the duo to research a lot of Hindu mythology. “The novel features rakshasas and all we originally knew about them came from D&D,” Gordon said. “We thought that they were weretigers, and then we read Ramayana and all that went out the window. We had to make sure that the fights were interesting and realistic, or at least as realistic as fights between superhuman beings could be. They could jump higher and hit harder and take more punishment.”
Distilled down to its basics, the story is not really about about the tournament, the rakshasas, or genocide. “It’s about our need to protect our friends,” Ilona said. “Derek is trying to save a girl. Kate is trying to save Derek and to keep Curran, the Beast Lord, from getting hurt. Curran is trying to protect his people and Kate. It’s about the ties that bind us to other people and the actions we take because of them. Being separated from my family at a young age, I’ve come to rely on my husband and my friends. If one of my friends was in trouble, I’d probably do everything in my power to help. I can understand where Kate is coming from.”
The main feature of the series’ worldbuilding is the magic itself. “It floods the world like a tide and vanishes without warning,” Ilona said. “One moment the magic dominates, and cars stall and guns fail. The next, technology takes over and the defensive spells no longer protect your house from monsters. The magic waves devour technology little by little, toppling skyscrapers. It’s a dangerous world, where werebears and werehyenas prowl through the ruined streets, where mindless blood-crazed vampires are telepathically piloted by the Masters of the Dead, and where people carry both crossbow and an AK-47, because you never know which you might need.”