Published 2007 260 pages
Synopsis (from the back cover)
Atlanta would be a nice place to live if it weren’t for the magic…. When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.
Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.
The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for the bizarre killings – and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realises she’s way out of her league – but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Magic Bites is the debut novel of husband and wife writing team Ilona and Gordon Andrews known as Ilona Andrews. Written in the popular dark urban fantasy genre with a strong female protagonist, Magic Bites could have ended up another Anita Blake derivative but with an original spin on vampire mythology and a snappy fast-paced mystery plotline there was no danger of that.
Magic Bites is urban fantasy – its set in Atlanta – but not Atlanta as you would know it. In the world of Magic Bites, magic has bitten huge chunks out of the city. Technology is a thing of the past and the skyscrapers that were a testimony to the engineering achievements of man are now just a ruined wasteland were the worst kind of magical outlaws hide. This, coupled with the huge variety of mythical and magical creatures that populate the novel, pushes Magic Bites more towards the fantasy end of the genre. The setting is not just Atlanta with vampires and werewolves but feels like a whole alternative universe.
Magic Bites has everything that you would expect in a fantasy novel, a heroine (Kate) who is fighting way above her weight, yet still doesn’t consider running away as a viable exit strategy (and lets face it - it wouldn’t be much of a story if she did!) Kate gains some more magical power during the story and has a secret heritage that hints at greater powers to come plus Magic Bites has a variety of supernatural beasties both good and evil, friend and foe.
Choosing who is friend and who is foe is pivotal to the whole mystery plot and Kate’s judgement proves to be somewhat impaired which leads to some great plot twists. There is a slight romance sub-plot but that is all it is - a romantic sub-plot. (So anybody who is still traumatised from reading the latest Anita Blake offering need not worry, this book isn’t full of weird sex.) Magic Bites does have some gory descriptions of the atrocities committed by the villain of the story but these aren’t gratuitous and this is in the dark fantasy genre after all.
“What about the vampires?” I hear you cry. Well, this is where the book gets extra marks of originality because instead of going down the vampires must be super cool and irresistibly sexy road the author has demoted vampires to being the undead puppets of the Masters of the Dead. These vampires have may be immortal but they have no will of their own, they have been reduced the intelligence level of insects always under the control and working at the bidding of the necromancers. They are revolting creatures that scuttle and crawl, and while they are an extremely powerful tool in the hands of a necromancer, they are certainly not sexy. Because of this the vampires themselves are not central characters in the book but are a part of the whole pantheon of mythical creatures that populate the novel.
Ilona Andrews is an author who has written an original and exciting novel that successfully combines thrilling fantasy with engaging characters that capture the imagination. This book can hold its own against early Anita Blake or the work of more experienced fantasy authors such as Patricia Briggs or Kim Harrison and I would recommend it to fans of those books as well as anybody who likes their fantasy with a darker edge.
LoveVampires Review Rating: