Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews, narrated by Renee Raudman

Why I listened to it:  I’m a fan of the series and downloaded it as soon as I could. My print copy arrived in the mail just yesterday as well.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Atlanta is a city plagued by magical problems. Kate Daniels will fight to solve them—no matter the cost.

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Magic Rises changes things up a bit by taking Kate, Curran and some other prominent pack members to Europe and out of their comfort zones, with the end goal being to get “panacea” for the Pack – the medication that significantly limits loupism in shapeshifters.  I enjoyed how the book showed Kate’s emerging acceptance in the Pack – she is not and never will be a shapeshifter but she belongs and by the end of the book this becomes even more clear. I mean, I already knew that but there are some slowpokes in the Pack that need more time to come to grips with it.

Kate is challenged by the interest Curran shows in a young beautiful shapeshifter from the Alaskan pack (aptly named Lorelei), who has ambition and thinks Curran belongs with one of his own kind.  In the meantime, Kate and company have to find out who is responsible for the attacks on the pregnant lady they are in Georgia (the European one) to protect and Hugh D’Ambray makes a surprise appearance. Also there’s a gnome.  There’s more “fantasy” than “urban” in this one and it was a lot of fun.  It’s not the sort of thing you can do in Atlanta but it fit very well with the almost medieval-type  European setting.  There were some drastic consequences for some of the characters which was sad but on the other hand, it makes sense that not everyone of the “good guys” is going to survive or come out unscathed.

Kate and Curran do spend some time severely at odds in this book. While I’m a romance reader primarily, this series isn’t romance. It is Urban Fantasy with a strong romantic element (which you all know of course).  It’s about Kate.  If the story had been all about how her and Curran were doing stuff, it wouldn’t be about Kate.  And Curran is too strong and capable to be sidelined easily.  Usually Kate is doing stuff with Andrea or on her own and Curran isn’t directly involved for a lot of the story.  However, in this book, Kate and Curran were on the same quest together for the whole book – and basically trapped in a castle together.  Something had to separate them (at least physically) so that Kate could be the focus.  I knew there was more to what was going on with Curran than Kate thought (it was obvious – there’s no way he’d ditch Kate for someone else. Ever)  and I had the message from the authors (and a trusted blogger friend too) that the ending was happy and there’s not plan to mess with the Kate/Curran pairing.  But I could see from a narrative perspective why Kate had to go it alone for some of the book.  I have different romantic expectations in Urban Fantasy.  If it was a genre romance I would maybe have been mad, because I like my MCs to spend lots of time together – but those rules don’t apply here.  I didn’t love that it happened, but it didn’t make me cross either.  Plus, when Kate and Curran do sort things out, it was very satisfying. The whole thing felt consistent with their characters. They have only been together for a year and Kate isn’t very experienced in relationships so her reaction made sense to me.  I appreciated that she didn’t leap to the conclusion however.  And in terms of time, they weren’t on the outs very long.

I thought the ending had a bit of the deus ex machina about it – but to say more would be too spoilery for here. By then, I wanted everything to be okay, so I was prepared to go with it to get the happy ending.

It is clear that Kate has a long way to go before she can confront Roland and win.  I’m so very curious how she’s going to get there.  I mean, we all know she’s going to defeat Roland right?  It’s the how that’s up for grabs.

What else?  Renee Raudman’s delivered the narration with her usual skill and style.  There were a few occasions where I couldn’t tell if a character was thinking or speaking – it sounded the same – which was most problematic when these things happened mid conversation. It’s obvious in print because the thoughts are usually italicised but this is much harder to render vocally.  There were also some occasions of the wrong voice being used for a character – eg Kate’s instead of Curran’s.  However, those small niggles didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story very much and it has to be said that the way Raudman voices Curran – all growly and fierce more than makes up for them anyway.  It’s not just the sexy bits either.  At one point Curran says “It hurts a bit” and in context, the way she delivered the line was priceless.  Similarly, Raudman completely understands Kate and it is obvious to the ears – the snark and humour and her fierce joy in battle are all apparent.

Another excellent addition to one of my favourite series.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Grade:  B+

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