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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

'Gunmetal Magic' Kate Daniels World #1 by Ilona Andrews

 From the BLURB:

Some people have everything figured out—Andrea Nash is not one of those people.

After being kicked out of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea’s whole existence is in shambles. All she can do is to try to put herself back together, something made easier by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend Kate Daniels.

When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano—the male alpha of the Clan Bouda and Andrea’s former lover—die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate…and must work with Raphael. As Andrea’s search for the killer leads her into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta, she knows that dealing with her feelings for Raphael might have to take a back seat to saving the world…

Andrea Nash has been to hell and back, twice over.

As a young Beastkin girl growing up in a sadistic Bouda clan that saw her beaten, repeatedly, and once set alight, Andrea and her mother narrowly escaped its clutches and she grew up to find solace in the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid.

For a little while Andrea had a pack of her own making – maybe they didn’t know she was an ‘abomination’ Beastkin, but the Knights accepted her as a fighter and formidable weapon. When Andrea befriended fellow knight, Kate Daniels, and became affiliated with the Pack and a different Clan Bouda by association, Andrea slowly found her feet with a different type of home . . . especially when she met Bouda prince, Raphael, and felt love and acceptance for the first time in a long time.

And then a God came to rein hell on earth, and Andrea was forced to choose sides, and ended up on that second trip to hell and back. . .

She was kicked out of the Knights for being Beastkin. Dropped by the love of her life for choosing the wrong side of the battle, and facing pressure from beast king Curran to join the Pack, now Andrea Nash needs a good murder mystery investigation at ‘Cutting Edge’ to take her mind off things.

Except this murder mystery has taken place at a building site, owned by the very same Bouda prince who broke Andrea’s heart. And the shapeshifters who were murdered meant something to Andrea, and she’s hell-bent on avenging their deaths . . . even if it means tangling with another God, and her ex-boyfriend in the process.

‘Gunmetal Magic’ is a novel set in the ‘Kate Daniels’ world from writing duo, Ilona Andrews.

I have been waiting for this book for so long, and with each passing day that it didn’t arrive in the mail, my expectations grew to lofty heights. Reading glowing reviews had me salivating even more for Andrea and Raphael’s much-anticipated story. So it’s fair to say that by the time I cracked ‘Gunmetal Magic’ open, I had ridiculously high hopes . . . and it’s just a testament to Ilona Andrews and the wonderful world of ‘Kate Daniels’ that this book absolutely lived up to the hype.

Like many fans, I was a little miffed that Raphael didn’t make an appearance in fifth ‘Kate Daniels’ instalment, ‘Magic Slays’. I've been a big Andrea/Raphael shipper ever since reading their short romantic story in ‘Must Love Hellhounds’ and I was devastated by their falling out before battle in ‘Magic Bleeds’. Of course, when Ilona Andrews released the free ebook novella ‘Magic Gifts’, which included an Andrea cameo (and brief explanation of just how wide a rift had formed between her and Raphael), I completely understood and respected Andrew’s need to hold-off on their story . . . and when news broke that they were going to in fact devote an entire spin-off book to Andrea Nash, I was thrilled!

‘Gunmetal Magic’ actually includes the pivotal scene that Andrea recounts for Kate in ‘Magic Gifts’, and it involves Raphael appearing at the Cutting Edge Investigation offices with his new soon-to-be fiancé in tow. Thus, in the middle of a curious murder investigation into shapeshifter deaths at a building site, the gauntlet is also thrown down between Andrea and Raphael who were once mates, now swapping barbs and heartbreak.

Of course, readers of ‘Kate Daniels’ know the catastrophe behind Andrea and Raphael’s break-up – that Andrea chose to fight Erra on the Knight’s side rather than Pack, and Raphael felt betrayed by her decision. But readers also know Andrea’s violent childhood past with a Bouda Clan still had her weary of Raphael’s family, no matter how much she loved him. Of course, the entire ordeal back-fired on Andrea because the Knights kicked her out when they realized she was Beastkin, and now her only affiliation is to Kate and the Cutting Edge business.

Certainly there’s enough past hurt and murky history to kick ‘Gunmetal Magic’ off to a thrilling start on the emotional front. Ilona Andrews haven’t really had the need to write that witty, heated repartee between soon-to-be-lovers since Kate and Curran finally got together in ‘Magic Bleeds’. Sure, Kate and Curran still trade their wits and quips with one another (it’s why we love them!) but that truly barbarous, blood-boiling, knife-edge flirtation hasn’t really been necessary . . .  which is partly why ‘Gunmetal Magic’ is just so darn fun. Raphael and Andrea are what Kate and Curran used to be, but with a messier history and slightly deeper war-wounds from their past romance and mistakes. There are some truly fantastic scenes between the two of them, that walk the fine line between love and hate;

His voice was sweet as honey. “Darling, do you need me to loan you some money?”
“I have never in my life needed you to loan me money. If I was dead, and the ferryman needed a coin to take me across the river to the afterlife, and you had the only quarter in existence, I'd tell you to stick it up your ass.”

The emotional weight was always going to be there for those two, but I was thrilled that Ilona Andrews also delivered ten-fold on the mystery front. There’s a very tricky bad guy and evil doings going on in ‘Gunmetal Magic’, with ties to Egyptian mythology and it’s fantastic and meaty.

Even though ‘Gunmetal Magic’ is very much the Andrea and Raphael show, I appreciated that Ilona Andrews also teased out a few more secondary characters who have been perking up readers attention of late. New Bouda boy, Ascanio, acts as Andrea’s sidekick (he is to her what Derek was to Kate). I really love Ascanio (even though I’m 99% sure I’m mis-pronouncing his name in my head. Ash-ano? Ash-i-ano?) he’s what Raphael used to be, a spoilt, hormonal, too good-looking for his own good teenage Lothario who has gotten into some truly hilarious, naughty situations of late. But in ‘Gunmetal Magic’ we learn a bit more about his history, and it’s with this book that he really started to form for me as an interesting, multi-faceted secondary character. I want to know more about him. But I also love Ascanio in relation to Kate Daniel’s young ward, Julie. Like many fans, I've also been wondering where Derek has been for a few books now – not least of all because I like to keep track of Julie’s crush on him. Well in ‘Gunmetal Magic’ there’s still not nearly enough Derek mentions, or Julie scenes, but I loved this tid-bit of a mention;

Most of the time she was a perfect Pack princess, polite and poised – except when Derek, Kate’s sidekick, or Ascanio were in the room. Derek got frosty replies studded with spikes and if Ascanio was present, she turned into a foul-mouthed sarcastic devil.

Once I would have said I was keen for a Julie short story (with fingers crossed that it would include Ascanio and Derek). But now after waiting patiently for this Raphael/Andrea story, (and being gifted with a ‘more than I could hope for’ spin-off novel!) I am now going to change my bookish wish and say I hope Ilona Andrews has something bigger cooking for Julie . . . I'd love a YA spin-off *series* (like Kelley Armstrong’s ‘Darkest Powers’ YA spin-off from her ‘Women of the Otherworld’ established series). I really think that with all that’s happened to Julie (like her magic connection to Kate that was established in ‘Magic Slays’) and the slowly forming relationship’s she’s building with Ascanio and Derek, there’s definitely something special there that I'd much rather we have to hold-off on reading, if it means we get a bigger chunk of story out of it.

If I had any small issues with ‘Gunmetal Magic’ it’s the slightly unsatisfied feeling I had with regards to Andrea’s childhood. There are a few scenes in which Andrea is clearly being affected by nightmares and remembrances from her past, in particular her young tormentors. And considering that her past experiences with a Bouda Clan are partly what drove a wedge between her and Raphael. . . I just thought there’d be a few more scenes teasing this out. Instead there’s a fairly haphazard scene towards the end of the novel that felt too random and convenient to have any real substance. I guess I just wanted some scene or moment that let us know Andrea was dealing with the demons of her past, and Raphael was willing to help her defeat them, and that scene didn’t feel like it.

All in all ‘Gunmetal Magic’ was a wonderful additional novel to the ‘Kate Daniels’ series. Ilona Andrews really let the secondary characters of Andrea and Raphael ferment in the ‘Kate Daniels’ series, so by the time they got their own stand-alone novel to deal with their pent-up emotional baggage it turned into an explosive exploration that has me eager for more stand-alones. I’m hoping for a Dolittle short story, but I’m willing to beg for a Julie spin-off book or YA series!

4.5/5

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review! I love the Kate series and can't wait to read Gunmetal Magic. So far all of Ilona Andrews books live up to the hype! :)

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    1. You're right, Ilona Andrews can do no wrong. Even their shopping list would be an action-packed thriller. Maybe. Possibly.

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  2. Yes! This was sooo good. I would love to see a spin-off with Julie, Asciano, or Derek (or all three).

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    1. Spin-off, spin-off, spin-off (if we chant loud enough, maybe they'll hear?).

      A Julie series would be like a dream come true. Truly. An absolute treat.

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  3. I was surprised at how much I liked it! I was expecting to find myself missing Kate and Curran a lot more than I did.

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    1. I know! I thought about that *after* I finished with the book. A little moment of "Huh, hardly any Kate & Curran and I hardly even noticed..." that's got to be the mark of a great spin-off book.

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