Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews (narrated by Renèe Raudman)
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Down in Atlanta, tempers – and temperatures – are about to flare…
As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels has seen her share of occupational hazards. Normally, waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. Now Kate’s going to have to deal with problems on a much bigger scale: a divine one.
When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta’s paramilitary clan of shapeshifters, she quickly realizes much more at stake. During a flare, gods and goddesses can manifest – and battle for power. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug-of-war between two gods hoping for rebirth. And if Kate can’t stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive…
This book. In some ways, it was an improvement on the first and in others it wasn’t any better. I’m not sure if I would have liked it any better if I’d gotten my hands on a physical copy instead of an audio-book, either.
So, high points:
I felt the world-building was a lot better. The learning curve was nowhere near as steep as book one. It was clear in book one that a lot of thought had gone into it and it was nice to see things remained consistent in book 2 and got expanded more. Witches were introduced and we got to see more of some of the shapeshifters, plus a bit more of the People and their vampires, although they got quite a bit of screentime in book 1.
Characters got a bit more fleshed out. Miyong (sp?), Red, Derek, and Curran all got to show more sides of themselves, Andrea and Julie were great new additions, and even Bran had some depth. Very little depth and he annoyed/disgusted me until the end, but he had some depth.
And the antagonists were very interesting. I liked getting to see more of the mythology behind this world, how fights between different factions can go, that sort of thing. Although one of the mysteries was very easily solved IMO, but at least Kate didn’t spend too much time worrying about that particular one.
Now for the bad:
First off, unfortunately, is Kate. I thought she had a lot of promise in the first book, but in this one she comes across as very wishy-washy and not exactly good with short-term memory. She waffles between how many friends she has, sometimes counting Jim and sometimes Andrea and sometimes both and sometimes neither, which what? It doesn’t help that Jim was kind of an asshole to her in this book, which makes me wonder why he even counts as a friend…. Kate also waffles back-and-forth about how she feels about Crest, her not-quite-boyfriend from the last book – in the previous book, she didn’t seem to be super into him but now she’s freaking out over him. And, finally, at one point Curran leaves the room she’s in and she says she feels ‘lonely’ – which, why would she? At this point, she kind of hates him (yes, okay, he’s clearly the endgame romantic partner, but still!). On top of the wishy-washy, she says idiotic things like ‘what’s the harm’ right before telling Julie bits of her backstory, things she’s not supposed to tell anyone. Yes, Julie is a sleepy child, but she’s smart and might just remember this.
Next up on the bad points list is, unfortunately, still Curran. Yes, he’s better in this book than he was in the last (depth!), but he’s still verbally and physically intimidating Kate. Look, when a guy says, ‘you shouldn’t provoke me’, even if he’s a shapeshifter with control issues thanks to an influx of magic, that is a warning sign. Seriously.
And finally, the ending of the book. Melodrama alert. Seriously. Kate swings from ‘I am Death Destroyer of Worlds’ to ‘boo hoo woe is me Everything I Touch Dies’ territory.
Final thoughts: props to Raudman for her narration. She did a pretty good job of differentiating Kate’s narration/thoughts from her spoken words, which is good because Kate is sarcastic in thought and slightly less sarcastic in word, so it wasn’t always easy to tell what she said out loud and what was just in her head. Raudman mostly managed to keep that clear thanks to giving her a slightly different tone when vocalizing. On the other hand, I sometimes had trouble differentiating some of the male speakers from each other when there were no identifying markers.
3 out of 5 stars, but I’ll admit to being hooked on the world and some of the side characters, even if I’m not completely sold on Kate (and so far from that on Curran that it’s not even funny). So on to the next one – which will also be in audiobook form. Oh joy.