Magic Burns
by Ilona Andrews
(Ace, $6.99, PG-13 (V)) ISBN †978-0-441-01583-2
*****
A fascinating and fast-paced follow-up to Andrews' 2007 Magic Bites, Magic Burns throws her captivated readers right back into the melee of Kate Daniels' life.

Despite the fact that Kate's job as the ambassador between the two primary magical institutions, the Order of Merciful Aid and the Mercenary Guild, doesn't keep her all that occupied most of the time, life in post-Flare Atlanta is rarely simple. A flare is just that, but instead of the usual things one would think of flaring-up, in this case it is magic. Magic and non-magic (or "tech", in Kate's world) generally flicker back and forth, but during the build-up toward another fairly major flare, there is no rhyme or reason to the changes, which is keeping everybody on-edge and making those people with magic pretty volatile.

Not to mention it's brought some weirdos to town. On one call, Kate's target is killed by a very odd arrow before she even has the chance to question him. She follows the bowman's trail down a virtual rabbit-hole and discovers a girl looking for her mother.†It becomes evident that Julie's mother has been dabbling in some dangerous magics, and during their search, Kate stumbles across her mystery bowman as well as some clues that don't want to come together very easily.

Even though she swore she wouldn't work with Curran, the King of Beasts (the leader of all of the local were-animals), Kate inherited her mentor's job as the go-between to the Pack. She gets wrangled into locating some very elaborate maps that have been stolen from the Pack's compound and comes to realize it is the bowman, Bran, who is the thief, one more loose end in a tapestry that is quickly coming to mean a lot of trouble for the population of Atlanta. There's a destructive god on the loose, important secrets flying around, and a dying oracle who won't help Kate until a boon is granted.

Jammed with mystery, suspense, and action, Magic Burns moves right along and ends all too quickly. It relies heavily on information from the previous book, and while reading it I found myself referring back to Magic Bites. The story makes sense without the first novel, but I enjoyed it more once I had refreshed my memory. Kate's relationships with friends, co-workers, street urchins, and a certain King of the Beasts are tons of fun, especially since Kate is a little rough around the edges. Her reactions to the situations in which she finds herself are believable and practical at the same time, so the reader can relate to her responses but she doesn't lose her tough-girl image.

All of Andrews' characters are allowed to make mistakes, and that immediately endears them to a reader. Her fully functional, no-nonsense writing style perfectly conveys the atmosphere of the book. Though the romance in this series is usually on the way back burner, the occasional joke or sexual tension keeps it alive enough that I feel the Kate Danielsí series will please readers of fantasy, paranormal, and romance alike.

--Sarrah Knight


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