Sometimes I just absolutely want to have the ability to kick myself. I’ve had this book sitting in my TBR pile ‘For-e-ver’ (as Smalls from The Sandlot would say) and I’ve had so many people say get with it and read this series. Yeah, I’m a little slow, but finally I got around to it and it was abso-fab. This husband and wife writing team have a new big fan for their Kate Daniels’ series.
The basic story isn’t so unusual in Urban Fantasies with it being about an underdog, down on her luck heroine out to do the right thing with no idea how she’s going to do it, but with a little bit of luck, grittiness and hidden skills that people slowly begin to appreciate, she keeps surviving to accomplish her task. Oh and in this case her task involves trying to solve a murder mystery and catch a murderer that is set on playing two large groups of powerful people off on each other and go for a take over. Naturally, I simplified all that.
First of all, Kate is a powerful, although the bulk of her power she hides, magic user who is a sort of mercenary. She lives in an apocalyptic world where magic is what caused the apocalypse bringing with it all the myths and legends come to life. Magic had changed everything so that technology is there, but unreliable and non-humans are no longer anywhere near the top of the food chain. There are whole new government agencies created to deal with the magical fall-out. Kate used to be a promising trainee for one of the agencies, but she struggles with authority and rules. What sets her off is that her mentor and sort-of father figure is killed in a gruesome way leaving everyone mystified, but pointing fingers because he is only one of many murders or missing persons that mostly come from two main factions. Kate is set on solving it and exacting revenge, but learns quickly that this is no Lone Ranger job. She must accept help and the help really does nothing for her ego. One ‘helpful’ faction is The People (and this is one of the places I was so impressed by the world building). The People reminded me a bit of a mafia organization. They wield magic, but one of their things is to control vampires. Ah, vampires! In this world, vamps are little better than disgusting zombies controlled by a necromancer. Definitely not the dark brooding creatures of romance. The other faction is the shapeshifters who have their own animal groups, but also answer to a hierarchy of mixed shifters with a king known as The Beast Lord- or Curran as he finally allows Kate to call him. These shifters can take three forms- animal, man, or a powerful hybrid. Kate leans toward trusting the shifters, but must still remain neutral in her investigation. Kate makes a few mistakes along the way and gets into and out of her fair share of dangerous situations, but the surprising revelation of who and what is behind it all might finish her -and her allies- off for good.
As I’ve been saying in so many words, this was an impressive plot with a most creative bit of worldbuilding. It was an intrigue and murder mystery at its basic core, but it is also an introduction to a series so there was lots of slow build to this plot as the reader is given the opportunity to meet the characters and get used to the Kate Daniel’s world. Kate Daniels is a well-written character and I really had an opportunity to get to know her because the story is first person from her perspective. Kate is a hard person and walks down the middle of the dark and dangerous streets of a hard world. She makes plenty of mistakes and gets pushed around, but she just keeps getting back up. I really admired her in many ways. The secondary characters all kept my attention too and I am definitely crossing my fingers that many of them will become recurring characters in the series. Unlike the PNR genre, Urban Fantasy is meant to be a slow building story arc with plenty of room for characters and plot lines to grow. UF is usually darker and grittier and the romance almost background to the action. This is all true of the story here. The immediate situation is solved, but it was obvious that Kate is only at the beginning of a life-changing direction which part of it is a job and part of it is a cease of hostilities and something else with the Beast Lord, Curran.
I tended to do a bit of gushing in this review and I am unapologetic for that. I can highly recommend this series to all the Urban Fantasy buffs out there who prefer a strong, but flawed heroine making her way through a dark and dangerous world.