I’m kinda late to the Kate Daniels party.
So I decided to haul some arse* and read a bit of the chick whose sword needs a feed, kinda like your weirdo best friend’s pet snake needs a frozen mouse.
Also, I want to know more about the serious Narnia lion on the covers.
As there’s a crapload of drooling 5 star fangirls on Amazon and Goodreads, dribbling words of praise all over these puppies, I gotta read one of them.
*(an ‘ass’ is a donkey-horse hybrid, not a swear word, dear US readers)
I have high expectations for this book, mainly because all of the slathering reviews and copy-cat series it’s spawned.
The cover is kind of cheesy, but I can overlook that.
Fingers crossed that Kate Daniels is NOT another snarky, bitchy, braid tugging, sniffing premenstrual 12 year old like a lot of other urban fantasy (UF) heroines.
I want Kate Daniels to be as good as the lead characters that Kim Harrison, Laurell Hamilton, Laura Bickle and Kat Richardson have created.
You know, someone like Xena crossed with Agent Scully, rather than Nikki Minaj crossed with an empty shoebox.
I have no idea about the worldbuilding in the series, so no preconceptions there. Don’t even know where it’s set (the US, I’m guessing).
Magic Bites is a bit of a blank space.
Kind of fun, eh?
Kate Daniels’s mentor/step-father figure, Greg has been murdered. Normally a loner merc (mercenary), Kate agrees to help the Order, who Greg worked for, solve his murder.
Clues soon suggest the involvement of the other two big paranormal organisations in Atlanta outside of the Order, the Pack (shapeshifters) and the People (necromancers).
Kate soon figures out that neither are involved – instead, a mysterious third party is trying to get the People and the Pack into a war against each other.
She finds herself loosely allied to the Pack, lead by Curran (the Narnia lion dude). The Pack are mainly nekkid men’s chests who change into wolves and other furry beasts.
Randomly, they start riding horses along ley lines (It. Just. Happened. Ok?).
Kate thinks she’s figured out who the Big Bad is: a human guy named Crest, a try-hard plastic surgeon who’s been dating her. Curran and his Pack of nekkid men chests come with her on a seriously big operation to confront Crest.
Turns out, she’s wrong and he’s not the Big Bad.
She loses the Pack’s trust, and pisses Crest off.
Kate goes home, gets drunk, and the Big Bad turns up at her place, but she’s set wards and he can’t bust in.
The Big Bad kidnaps one of her Pack friends and sets up a challenge.
There’s a big battle with Curran, Kate, and the world’s worst entrance, stage left, character, Nick the Knight of the Order, who gives Kate the key piece of info she needs to kill Bono, the Big Bad.
There’s a seriously. Big. Climax. Fight. Everyone gets hurt.
Bono joins the choir eternal in a puff of smoke.
Afterwards: Kate accepts random job offer from the cops, and Curran fixes a hole in her roof.
I seriously considered ditching this book halfway through.
It seemed to be yet another example of the overused UF trope of SNARKY FEMALE MC (main character), mixed with a bad case of WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T INFO DUMP, gone cray-cray.
Let me give you an example.
Almost every time Kate interacts with anyone save her slightly random step-mother, she strikes like a viper. The claws are out.
Most of the time, it’s for no apparent reason…
… and I have a problem with it.
A BIG problem.
Snark is cheap conflict.
Instead of having a character with an internal emotional conflict, or a conflict with her setting, you get newish authors doing the same, tired thing: snarky conflict between characters.
In UF, the result is always angsty, moody, bitchy-for-no-reason characters, who snap, back-chat and act like smart-arse 12 year old, premenstrual douches in nearly every single piece of dialogue.
The good news was that the snark calmed down towards the end of the book, and thankfully, Kate was pulled up for her mouth several times.
Gives me hope she is a little more than cardboard cut-out she comes across as (compare her with Harper Blaine of Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series or even Anita Blake, both deep characters from the beginning).
Another annoying thing with the book was the LACK of information.
We’re talking fantasy world here.
We need some worldbuilding. A little bit of explanation, some exposition, sprinkled here and there.
There is not an additional line of exposition anywhere in this book.
It’s as lean as an anorexic greyhound on speed.
Which, again, smacks of not-quite-ready-in-my-art, like the snark-fest.
Given that the world Andrews has built is complex and original, it deserves more than the cursory blink it’s given.
I totally get revealing only what’s needed to the reader through your character’s eyes, but in this book the LACK of this was noticeable and jarring to the reader.
Suddenly, in Magic Bites, we’re riding horses. No explanation.
I have two other issues I thought worth mentioning, and they are especially important to US authors to consider.
For goodness sakes, why is everyone is so fucking gorgeous in US, female-written urban fantasy?
All the shapeshifters in Magic Bites are nekkid men’s chests (yes, there is Jennifer, but she’s barely mentioned).
Kate is 5 foot gazillion with luscious hair and a look that attracts men.
I want a SHORT, muscular chick with a flat chest.
A guy with crooked teeth and a dad body.
Not unbelievable characters influenced by Hollywood glitz.
Male UF writers don’t tend to do this.
There is no reason for female writers to do it, yet WE DO.
The American South
UF authors, please stop writing books set in the US south.
Those ‘southern’ cultural nuances you find cute or even comprehensible, sound creepy, disturbing, or worse, leave the reader puzzled.
I.e. In Magic Bites, Kate notes a male character wears boots like any Southern man would.
Umm, a hell of a lot of Aussie men wear boots to work.
FFS, I wear boots to work!
So whatever the cultural nuance was regarding boots, it made no sense to someone outside that cultural milieu.
Now that I’ve trashed Magic Bites, I’ll discuss what worked for me.
Slayer, the sword that needs a feed, worked.
Kate having MUSCLES (female authors: you have a chick that uses weapons, she is going to have muscles), definitely works for me.
The world works, but needs about 10000 additional words in the text to bring it to life. It seems to be post-apocalyptic (not sure), the vampires are very original (they’re like drones and need piloting), the setting well-developed in the author’s mind but sadly lacking as a character.
The plot was ok. No real twists other than Crest, the red-herring.
The gore was great, I loved the anatomical details, and I also loved the honest, realistic swearing.
The book is not for pathetic, christian apple-pie moms, which make me fist pump and scream: YES YES YES!!
I guess the question is, then: WILL I READ THE NEXT ONE?
Hmmm…. school’s out on that.
3 stars – Not too foul category