Kate Daniels is a grumpy, frequently broke mercenary wizard living in a world in which some days magic works and technology doesn’t, and some days vice-versa. The allegedly benevolent Order of Knights of Merciful Aid have been trying to recruit for years, something she’s resisted because she “can’t deal with hiearchy,” and because she thinks that they maybe kinda kill people too much. But when her closest friend, a Knight named Greg, is murdered, the only way she can investigate is to make a deal with the Order. And then also some necromancers, and werecreatures.
I’ve read so many urban fantasies over the past couple months that I find myself able to review them only in the Ticky Box format. (no spoilers)
The book is about a woman tracking a magical serial killer.
…Who preys mainly on women.
…And children. (No dead babies! This is a feature in this genre.)
There are multiple male love-interests for the heroine.
One of them is an alpha-male werecreature. (His name is Curran and he’s, uh… a wereliger.
Just go with it.)
The other is an alpha-male vampire. (The other is a plastic surgeon.)
The heroine is turned on by alpha-male threats. (She threatens back until he backs off!)
Werecreatures are sexy.
Vampires are sexy. (Vampires are creepy mindless automatons controlled by non-sexy necromancers. One of the necromancers is a balding sysadmin.)
Sexual violence is involved.
…And sexual violence is sexy. (No; it is extremely unpleasant.)
Lairs are involved.
…And lairs are sexy. (There’s one Sexy Lair, but it’s a minor character’s lair and not around long. The werecreature and necromancer lairs are not designed with upper-class-luxury-imbued sexual fantasies in mind.)
Violent initiation rituals are required to gain the supernatural beings’ respect.
…And violent initiation rituals are sexy. (They are unpleasant.)
When the heroine kills something it is mostly by accident because she doesn’t understand the True Nature Of Her Power (but some guy does understand it). (Nope! Kate has self-control! And she knows her own dark secrets! A nice change of pace.)
The male love interests’ angst is more better specialer than the heroine’s. (Kate’s angst is high-quality.)
So, this was pretty good! It reminds me somewhat of the first few Anita Blake books, except that Kate is more interested in actual police-work-type stuff. The prose is nothing exciting – people mostly sound the same when they talk, and all – but it’s competent, and it’s perfectly capable of holding up the story. Andrews seems pretty aware of the tropes of the genre. I liked one bit where, after some particularly heavy Mythological Creatures I Hang Out With Or Have Done Battle With Name-Dropping (a conversational staple for urban fantasy heroines), Kate and Curran have this discussion:
“What happened to the alpha-wolf?”
“Legos?” It sounded Greek but I couldn’t recall anything mythological with that name. Wasn’t it an island?
“He was carrying a load of laundry into the basement and tripped on the old set of Legos his kids left on the stairs.”
When the book sticks to the formula, it does it well, and in a couple places she very deliberately breaks out of it. There are a couple of situations that, given the genre, you expect to go one way, and end up going exactly the opposite. This isn’t exactly a ground-breaking or subversive stuff, but it’s not just going through the motions, either.