Magic Burns

On the Edge

Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews
(Ace, $7.99, PG-13)  ISBN:  978-0-44101-852-9
Kate Daniels believes very strongly in the greater good, a theme which has been evident throughout Ilona Andrews paranormal/fantasy series.  Since Kate comes from a family of ancient evildoers (a fact she has kept to herself for her entire life up until a year ago), the greater good will more than likely be the death of her.  This could happen in any number of ways: Kate will be killed in the line of duty trying to overcompensate for the danger she feels she brings to society; Kate's father, the leader of all of the vampires, will kill her; or she will reveal herself and be killed for who and what she is.

Kate's had hard year, but also the most normal year of her life.  She's adopted a runaway, made a best friend, and may even have what passes for a romantic relationship in the works.

A murderer dubbed the Steel Mary – after Typhoid Mary, as he magically forced diseases into several southern cities already – brings Kate's new-found normalcy to a screeching halt.  While the plagues are her initial concerns, they soon lead to worse things.  It appears that the murderer is targeting shapeshifters.  Kate, an officer of the Order, which is a magickal policing organization, is the liaison to the shapeshifter community; it's leader, the Beast Lord, is her on-again, mostly off-again sweetie.  Since shapeshifters are virtually impossible to make ill because of the virus that allows them to shift into various mammals, this causes an uproar within the ranks of people in the know.  Many knights of the Order believe that shapeshifters aren't human, however, and Kate has a number of run-ins with her boss over the issue as she tries to uncover some slight clue as to the Steel Mary's identity.

Half of the book is given to this mystery, and suffice it to say that it leads Kate to an even larger evil: her aunt Erra, the Plaguebringer, a timeless evil who is the right-hand of her father, Roland.  Erra is not a god, but she isn't human, either.  Kate, trying to protect those she loves and humanity in general, must fight Erra alone or risk hideous deaths for everyone attached  by the slightest strand to her.

With a mysterious and heretofore unheard-of lizard shapeshifter constantly rescuing Kate from herself and Curran breathing down her neck (literally, in some instances) about mating and installing herself in the Pack's territory, Kate still manages to hack her way through the mayhem and come out on top.  However, as usual, this is not without some severe damage not only to herself, but to some of those that she loves.

Not since the first book in this fabulous series have readers had so much input into what makes Kate Daniels who she is, at least as far as her heritage and her history are concerned.  The initial mystery doesn't move too quickly, but once the aunt makes her presence known, Magic Bleeds is constant motion and will keep the heart racing.  Kate, though a pretty upbeat character for the life she's led, is more emotional in this novel than she has been before, and the development of her relationship with Curran is, as usual, stunning.  Two such strong forces coming together would have to be, and Ilona Andrews pulls it off beautifully.  Readers may find the twists and turns of Kate's mind and the mythology of her urban-fantasy world confusing, but muddle through: the result is well worth the effort.

--Sarrah Knight

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