Today's book review is Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.
This is a post-apocalyptic modern fantasy. Extreme violence, adult themes, but no explicit sex. It tells a complete episode, but it's strongly implied that there's more to come.
I disliked the first few chapters of this book so much that I nearly stopped reading. The world is ugly, the protagonist is a thoroughly dislikeable bitch, and some proofreading errors stuck in my craw. I did stick with it, and I came to appreciate that the world is original and there is a logic to both the chaos in the world and the character of the protagonist. What started out seeming like arbitrary nastiness is, at least, consistent and directed nastiness. It remains an ugly world. In modern fantasy, I do of course expect the supernatural elements added to the world to have a down side, but in this one there's pretty much nothing positive about it at all. Once I managed to get through that, it's a fast-paced story and has a little bit to say about responsibility and commitment. After the rough start, it held my attention. I even ended up kind of liking it.
7 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- SPOILERS ****
Kate is a freelance mercenary monster-killer. The book opens with her discovering that her guardian, Greg, Knight Defender of the Order, has been killed. The Order are more or less good guys; they have some tendency to define "good" for themselves, but they generally work to keep the undead, rogue sorcerers, and other evil stuff under control. Kate was a trainee in the Order but rejected them forcefully because she couldn't deal with their authority structure, and she wants nothing to do with them. But out of duty to Greg, she agrees to work for them. She learns that there have been several murders in each of the two strongest power groups -- the lycanthropes and the vampire-controlling People. (Undead in this world are generally mindless creatures that are directly mentally controlled by a necromancer.) She learns that the creature that killed her brother was an unknown type. Investigating the murders leads to the conclusion that someone is deliberately trying to spark a war between the shapeshifters and the People. Despite her efforts to offend him, Curran, the chief shapeshifter, wants to work with her and helps her to take out the rogue Master of the Dead she tracks down. In an apocalyptic battle, she pulls a building down on herself to destroy a horde of vampires, believing she's killed herself, but Curran pulled her out at the last moment, in the process burning his entire skin off. After they win, they discover that the Master (Mistress, actually) was not acting on her own after all. The actual villain is a supernatural creature called an upir about whom almost nothing is known. He has to be masquerading as a human. Their first suspect is Kate's boyfriend. Kate intimidates him into being tested; he turns out to be an innocent normal human, but their relationship is over. Then Kate realizes that the upir must be Bono, her informant in the People. Nick, the insane Crusader, has discovered the weakness of the nearly indestructible upir, and he, Curran, and Kate head to the final battle. They win and actually all live. And Kate seems to finally be coming around to the fact that she's supposed to fall for Curran, which was telegraphed when they first met (as well as by the picture on the cover), but the book ends before anything actually happens.