A review by mx_virg
Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews

adventurous dark funny mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


This is technically a re-read, but I read this so long ago I only have mirages of memories of this series. I've been wanting to re-read it for a while, and one of my favorite reviewers, Mari, is doing a book club this year with this series, so I used this as the push I needed to dive into this again.

I really enjoyed 70% of the book, and wanted to scream at the characters for the rest of it. The first two thirds are really strong, it's a great first book in a series, introduces you to the characters and the world without too much hand holding. The heroine is badass but with her faults, very relatable. But the third act is a mess (apparently the author had to cut stuff out to fit a word count limit set by the publisher, but I don't care, cut out if need be but it should still make sense). The ending is strong, and I know this third act BS is an outlier in the series, so I'll happily continue to read the rest of it.

⚔️ As I said, Kate is a great heroine to follow. She's working as a merc and is used to answer to no one and be responsible for no one, and likes it that way. She also has a big mouth that acts up at the worst of times, for our biggest enjoyment
SpoilerOne of the few things I remembered from this book is the line "Here, kitty kitty." Iconic.
. She's capable, very self-aware, has her share of secrets I can't wait to discover, and has a lot of growing up to do still. One of the things I remembered is enjoy watching her evolution in the series.

⭐ The world Ilona Andrews has crafted is really unique. First there is the way magic works here, it puts magic as a force against technology, only one being "active" at a time. I was worried it would be used as a plot twist device repeatedly (the switch occurring at key moments), but not at all. It spices up the world nicely, it's not overused but also not forgotten. The way the city is described, how magic is eating at it, it really helps being immersed in this supernatural world. And then there's how shifters and vampires work in this world. The author manages to add her own twists to very well known fantasy creatures (shifters and vampires), which is a nice change from the usual.

🐺 My fave side character is definitely Derek. Mahon, Doolittle and Ana are also great. I hope we get to see more from them and others in future books, especially women characters. Kate Daniels wouldn't be the only one in the urban fantasy genre to forget about female friendships and to only surround her heroine with male characters.  

🤔 The main plot was engaging enough. It was a bit convoluted, but did a good job to introduce us to all the big players in this world and various concepts. The goal is to make us run around everywhere, and try to make it interesting. Good enough job on that front.

😠 Let's end with the worse, Curran and the third act. Curran is not the worse per se, but he's infuriating in this book. Some of it is explained/understandable, some of it isn't. He and Kate have led very different lives with very different priorities. He's also quite scary and she has a snarky mouth when scared. Their interactions are often very fun. But then there are situations where Kate is treated unfairly and nonsensically, most of it happening in that third act I keep yapping about. So now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to rant a bit.

Basically, after thinking they killed the one who has been killing everyone else all this time, Kate thinks some things aren't adding up, and it's not over yet. Curran laughs her off, saying she only wants things to not be over so she can stay relevant instead of going back to a nobody merc. This is after she was ready to sacrifice herself for everyone (which they make a huge deal about, she's now "friend of the pack", she's held in high esteem, etc.). Curran is now on my shit list. The fact that he rescued her, stopping her from sacrificing herself, doesn't change that. 

She goes back home, and the next morning finds a head on a stick, with a note for her and Curran. She also ends up finding the bones of the shifters whose body were missing. So yeah, things are not over, and the shifters come to her house. She figures it must be an upir and everybody seems to agree with her. (I will say that I find it quiet idiotic that no one went to see the guy who gave this tip, unprompted, to Kate, in the first place. This whole third act is infuriating for several reasons, one of them is how stupid it makes all of them look). Curran demands she goes back to their place because the note makes it very clear she is in danger.

Back at the shifter's compound, Kate discovers that her friend, the closest thing to a partner she has, has send someone to spy on her, and what she did in the privacy of her home wasn't so private after all. Curran decides that Crest is the upir, everybody agrees, Kate does so very reluctantly. They decide to confront Crest at his place, to ask him to pass a test to see if he's human or something else. 

And it's a big fail. Crest is human. I guess this is very embarrassing for the Pack and Curran, which is why they're taking it so hard. And they all decide it's all Kate's fault. Kate included. They abandon her (technically, she leaves through the back door, but no one waited for her or looks for her). So she goes from "friend of the pack" and "poor thing in danger" to "we're disgusted by you". 

What the hell?!? 

The threat is still there. She didn't invent that. There's still something out there that placed that head on a stick at her place, with the bones of dead shifters. She's still not only in danger, but if the upir gets his hands on her, it could be very bad for a lot of reasons. And the shifters are still in danger too. And she's not the one who said the upir was Crest! That's Curran, and then they all interrogated her about him and decided it fit, when they had very, very little information to go on.

And not only does everyone think Kate is shit now, but so does she. I don't get it. It felt like it had to happen that way to keep the tension between Kate and Curran, and have that scene where she goes behind his back to help Nick, because "it's no use talking to him, he won't believe me, everybody thinks I'm the worst". Leading up to the scene where they fight a bit. Urgh.

And it's not the only time it happens in the book. When Kate first meets the Pack, Curran kind of sets her up and she doesn't react in the best way (although I have no idea what she should have done, just take it?). Apparently he treated her like they do the lowest of the lowest shifters, which is not great. Derek touched her when Curran said they couldn't. And Kate didn't handle the situation she found herself in very well (she thought it was a friendly invitation and ended up being ambushed). And yet, it was all her fault. She's the one who screws up everything. No one else but her. 

This is not as bad as the Crest-is-not-the-upir situation, it's also a bit understandable why Curran acted the way he did, but still, it shows a pattern. And I hope it's one we won't see in the rest of the series. It's great to have a heroine who makes mistakes and takes responsibility for them, but I don't want to read about a scapegoat who eats up the crap that's being thrown at her, some of it by her future love interest.

😡 And Curran is not the worst, Crest is. I don't feel one bit bad for what "happened" to him in this book. If this is one of the worst thing that happened to him, he's had it easy.

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