“Do you know what she is?” Ilona Andrews’ Gunmetal Magic

In Magic Bites and its sequels, wife and husband writing team Ilona and Andrew Gordon have written an urban fantasy series that’s seen them hit the NYT bestselling list. Kate Daniels, sometime mercenary and investigator, general all-around badass, and someone who can usually be relied upon to leave a trail of bodies behind her,* is an entertaining character. (To my mind, a very entertaining character: I have to agree with a lot of what Sarah Rees Brennan has to say here, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call Kate Daniels my “favourite sleuth.”)

*Mostly they had it coming.

But Gunmetal Magic, the latest book in Kate Daniels’ world, has a different protagonist. This time out, Andrea Nash—Kate’s best friend and a former member of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid—is in the driving seat.

Andrea’s a bit of a mess, actually. Kicked out of the Knights of Merciful Aid for being a shapeshifter, not at home in the Atlanta shapeshifter community thanks to her origins, and—apart from Kate, for whose investigative firm she’s now working—pretty socially isolated, the book opens with her having a dreaming flashback to childhood physical abuse. This is a woman walking a thin red line. Something’s going to give.

And if that’s not enough, all too soon she’s investigating some unexpected murders at her ex-boyfriend Raphael’s company: shapeshifters dead from virulently poisonous snakebite. (Said ex-boyfriend has apparently hooked up with a beautiful but stupid woman since Andrea last saw him. This doesn’t do wonders for her state of mind.) Before long, the threat level has been upped from Monstrous Snakes to Dangerous Demigods, and not only Andrea’s future but Atlanta’s—and perhaps the world’s—is at stake.

Gunmetal Magic is a book in very much the same mode as its predecessors. Which is to say, if you liked the Kate Daniels novels, this is right up your alley. If you didn’t like them, this is probably not going to be your book: Andrea’s voice is slightly different to Kate’s, but not by a very wide margin, and while her flavour of violent badassery isn’t exactly the same… let’s just say they have a lot in common. It’s very much a series book, too: while it’s reasonably accessible to the new reader,** there’s a lot of backstory and background and assumed prior knowledge that might make for some confusion.

**As a long-running series reader, I’m guesstimating here.

It’s the same kind of thing but a little different, is what I’m saying. Similar irritating romantic-relationship patterns crop up: Raphael acts like an all-around asshole, but since he really loves Andrea, it works out all right (albeit with a certain amount of friction).*** There’s tension and pace, as we go bouncing from crisis to crisis, without a moment to catch a breath. Competent prose with occasional deft noir or humorous turns. Recurring characters from previous books have their part to play. Various things (creatures, people) are shot, dismembered, blown up, hacked apart, and magically vaporised. Andrea gets to puts some of her past to rest.

*** I don’t care if it’s an interesting shapeshifter cultural practice: breaking into someone else’s house without permission and rearranging their stuff is not a romantic prank, it’s stalkerishly creepy.

In short, it’s excellent light entertainment.

And it comes with a bonus: the ebook novella “Magic Gifts,” (previously available briefly in December 2011) occupies the last hundred or so pages of the four hundred fifty within Gunmetal Magic‘s covers. Starring Kate Daniels, it involves a murderous necklace, a political wrangle with the Mercenaries’ Guild, and a surprisingly small amount of outright violence. It’s not the world’s best novella: the balance and pace is a bit off, and the conclusion feels a little rushed—but it is an entertaining one.

I use the word entertaining a lot when it comes to these books. They amuse me no end, so I have no qualms about recommending this instalment to everyone else who likes their amusement both light and full of wisecracking violence.

Liz Bourke is having an interesting summer. Perhaps a little on the proverbial side of interesting. She consoles herself by reading entertaining books.


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