Saturday, July 05, 2008

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

Kate Daniels is a magical troubleshooter, living in an Atlanta that is constantly shifting between magic and technology. Sometimes one works, sometimes the other. Now, a magic flare is coming, and in her capacity of a worker in the Order of Merciful Aid, she is going to have to deal with whatever problems come up.

Kate is wakened during the night by her werewolf friend, Jim, who invites her to join him on a job: tracking down a firebug who is both aided and controlled by a salamander, an elemental of pure fire. But he runs off afterwards on pack business, leaving her to deal with cleanup.

Shortly afterwards, she is called in by the pack to retrieve a packet of vital maps stolen by a lucky and magically skilled thief. This is what called Jim away the night before. Since the werewolf packs roam where very few others can... or dare, their maps are the best in the city, and everyone is willing to pay through the nose for them. This is an advantage they are unwilling to give up, so the maps must be retrieved. Kate agrees to do so, and sets off tracking them.

On the way, she meets a shaman that she knows, Red, a young boy who lives on the street. He has a girl with him named Julie, and he wants Kate to look after Julie and find her mother for her. Her mother, it seems, was part of a coven, and after one of the coven's rituals, she went missing and didn't come home. Ever since then, Julie has been on the street.

Kate tracks down the place where the coven met, deep in an area of streets known as the warren, which twisted in on itself when magic first burst over the land. She is attacked by Stymphalian Birds, and finds the setting for a huge ritual, and a giant hole in the ground where something was and was then removed. The hallmarks of magic, great magic are all around, but Kate can't tell exactly what was being done or cast, or if it was a summoning, who was being summoned. She also has her encounter with the map thief, who can teleport, and who both helps her against the Stymphalian birds and then shoots at her afterwards. She goes after him, but he disappears in a cloud of smoke.

She takes Julie back to her apartment, to find that the girl is antsy at being confined, and is deathly afraid of something coming after her. It turns out she has reason to fear, for that night, Kate's apartment is attacked by something... some kind of woman-like creature that is also water-based and has numerous hairy tentacles. Kate has no idea what it is, but the fact that it seems to be after Julie makes her worried for the girl's safety.

The next day, she takes Julie with her to the order and goes to look for the Coven that Julie's mother was a part of, and finds the trailer of the head witch of the Coven. It's a low, mean sort of place very close to the rift, and the trailer park is filled with uncanny sorts of things. Inside the trailer, she finds evidence that the coven worships Morrigan, and is trying to summon the goddess to earth during the upcoming magic flare. Not only does the Coven have a cauldron, it has *the* Cauldron of Celtic Myth, which can summon all sorts of Celtic spirits and monsters.

Worse, something is wrong with the summoning ritual. If the rest of the Coven attempts to use it, they could wind up with something very different from Morrigan. And what of the man who thieved the maps from the pack. What sort of powers and abilities does he have, and what does he have to do with the whole scenario?

With signs that the summoning ritual will be used, Kate must protect the whole of Atlanta... and Julie, from a summoning that could bring the Power of a God to reshape the whole city in ways that would be worse than the magical catastrophes that already reshaped it once. But she can't do it on her own. She'll need the help of the Pack and the whole order to pull it off. Can she get that help?

This second book in the Magic Atlanta series was very good. I liked the elements of worldbuilding, and how the city shifts from magic to technology and back, usually on a daily or multiple-times daily basis. Kate is a kick-ass heroine who doesn't take any guff, but seems to share the usual flaw of being almost constitutionally unable to ask for help... or when she does ask for it, she can't do it easily or graciously. But I suppose if she did, she wouldn't have a lot of the problems she does. I find it a little ridiculous when a hero or heroine is called upon to be stupid simply for plot reasons. It's little better when the heroine is difficult for the same reasons of plot.

Aside from that, I found the story to be engaging and fun to read. Even when the proverbial shit hits the fan, Kate usually finds a way to stay on top of it. Again, like similar action heroines, she also seems to have men lining up who want her just for how kick-ass and awesome she is. In a way, this book reminds me of how Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake used to be, before she started screwing her way through the supernatural community of the world. I dearly hope that this series avoids going the same route, but I have faith in Ilona Andrews.

Read this book. It's more that definitely worth it.

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