Series: Kate Daniels #1
Published by Ace on April 1st 2007
Genres: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Renee Raudman
Length: 9 hrs 5 min
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This is my second Ilona Andrews story from this series. I had previously read the novella in the anthology Night Shift. This didn’t feature the main character, Kate Daniels, but two of her friends, Jim and Dali. I liked both of these characters right away. I also read the pre-series novella, A Questionable Client, which was an interesting story and a set up for a character that keeps appearing. I don’t know that I would have understood Kate’s relationship with him unless I had read the novella first.
After Jim and Dali catch my interest, I had to read more of the series and this being an Urban Fantasy, I know it is important to start from the beginning to keep up with the growth of the characters.
In this series, Kate Daniels is a Merc for the Guild. She earns money collecting a sort of bounty put out on rouge…whatevers–werewolves, witches or any of the many characters Ilona Andrews has created or pulled out of obscure legends from different cultures. I believe this is most of my hate of this series. Ilona Andrews pulls out such obscure creatures, and while she does go into detail and explain what culture the creature stems from and all the dangers, etc., it becomes way too much of a history lesson and way too much distraction while still trying to get to know the main characters of this new world. Even vampires aren’t simply vampires. They are vessels which are “piloted” by a necromancer like someone would use an iphone to pilot a drone. The necromancer does a mind-meld with the vampires and sees out of their eyes and controls their actions. Kill the vampire while the pilot is still mentally attached and you can kill the pilot as well. They are particularly creepy.
Getting back to the story, Kate is a Merc and she carries a sword she calls “Slayer.” In this first story, she finds out that the man who raised her after her parents’ deaths was killed and she takes on the case to find out what happened to him. Greg Feldman was a Knight-diviner for the Orders of the Knights of Merciful Aid. These Knights do mostly what Kate does, but they have more rules and they are more of a free service for those who need help, but cannot pay. Kate originally went to their training system until she decided she couldn’t live within their rules and so she became a merc.
During her travels she meets, and pisses off, Curran who is the Beast Lord and rules all the shapechangers. He is quite scary and while flexing his regal muscles trying to cow Kate, she fights back by using magic and controlling one of his own werewolves. This embarrasses Curran before his people, his own fault for pushing Kate’s buttons, but this does not bode well for their working relationship. Curran also sends the young wolf she embarrassed to work with Kate and to protect her, both as a punishment and to remove him in case others would see Kate’s control over him as a sign of the kid’s weakness.
As Kate hunts down the killer, we learn more about the new world that is affected by waves of magic which move in and out like a tide and how it has changed the world that we know.
As the main character, Kate not only uses her sword, but has inherited some ability to wield magic from her parents, and we find she burns the bandages whenever she is hurt so no one can figure out what she actually is. She has control of some words of power and if she comes across one, not being able to control it could kill her. Where Kate and her power fits into this world is a tightly held mystery in this series.
I am not ready to give up and I have finished book 2 as well, which we will discuss that more tomorrow. I am not certain if my problem comes from too much information being flooded at me at once since we have the whole world building as well as all these obscure legends, or if it is the fact that it is too much information to take in on an audiobook format. When I am listening to an audiobook, I am driving. I am working. I am cleaning the house. When I sit and read, that is all I am doing. Focusing on what is in front of me. Is it simply the fact that this is too complex world building for audiobooks, at least in the first few set up stories? I listened to several Urban Fantasy series by audiobook but nothing this complex. In the Mercy Thompson, werewolves are werewolves, vampires are vampire, and only the fae require a more complex explanation. But we know Mercy is a mechanic, no more explanation is necessary for her job, and it takes place in the here and now.
I usually use audiobooks to catch up with a series that is so far in because I don’t have enough time for reading a block of books. The eighth book in the series was just released last month and there are at least seven novellas and short stories. I was offered a review copy of Book 8, but I declined since I am no where near ready to read that. I might just try picking up a digital copy of book 3, Magic Strikes, rather than the audiobook to see if I have an easier time with the flood of information. I am also more versed in the Kate Daniels universe after two books and the novellas and that might also make it easier to follow along.
So far, I definitely have a love/hate with Kate Daniels and friends. They are growing on me but the obscure legends and characters that Ilona Andrews develops in this story are starting to give me a headache.
Where was he? I scanned the building, peering into the gloom. Moonlight filtered through the gaps in the walls, creating a mirage of twilight and complete darkness. I knew he was watching me. Enjoying himself.
Diplomacy was never my strong suit and my patience had run dry. I crouched and called out, “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.”
Two golden eyes ignited at the opposite wall. A shape stirred within the darkness and rose, carrying the eyes up and up and up until they towered above me. A single enormous paw moved into the moonlight, disturbing the dust on the filthy floor. Wicked claws shot forth and withdrew. A massive shoulder followed, its gray fur marked by faint smoky stripes. The huge body shifted forward, coming at me, and I lost my balance and fell on my ass into the dirt. Dear God, this wasn’t just a lion. this thing had to be at least five feet at the shoulder. And why was it striped?
The colossal cat circled me, half in the light, half in the shadow, the dark mane trembling as he moved. I scrambled to my feet and almost bumped into the gray muzzle. We looked at each other, the lion and I, our gazes level. Then I twisted around and began dusting off my jeans in a most undignified manner.
The lion vanished into a dark corner. A whisper of power pulsed through the room, tugging at my senses. If I did not know better, I would say that he had just changed.
“Kitty, kitty?” asked a level male voice.
I jumped. No shapechanger went from a beast into human without a nap. Into a midform, yes, but beast-men had trouble talking.
“Yeah,” I said. “You’ve caught me unprepared. Next time I’ll bring cream and catnip toys.”
I turned and there he stood, wearing a loose T-shirt and sweatpants. A modest shapechanger, how refreshing. You wouldn’t even know that he had changed, save for the glistening sheen of dampness on his skin.
He looked me over slowly, judging, taking my measure.
I could blush demurely or I could do the same to him. I chose not to blush.
A couple of inches taller than me, the Beast Lord gave an impression of coiled power. Easy, Balanced stance. Blond hair, cut too short to grab. At first glance he looked to be in his early to mid-twenties, but his build betrayed him. His shoulders strained his T-shirt. His back was broad and corded with muscle, showing the power and strength a man developed in his early thirties.
“What kind of a woman greets the Beast Lord with ‘here, kitty, kitty’?” he asked.
“One of a kind.” I murmured the obvious reply. Eventually I had to look him in the eye. better sooner than later.
The beast Lord had a strong square jaw. His nose was narrow with a misshapened bridge, as though it had been broken more than once and hadn’t healed right. Considering the regenerative powers of the shapechangers, someone must’ve pounded his face with a sledgehammer.
Our stares met. Little golden sparks danced in his gray eyes. His gaze made me want to bow my head and look away.
He regarded me as if I was an interesting new snack. “I’m the Lord of the Free Beasts.”
“I figured.” Perhaps he expected me to curtsy.
He leaned forward a little, puzzling over me as if I were an odd-looking insect. “Why would a knight-protector hire a no-name merc to investigate the death of his diviner?”
I gave him my best cryptic smile.
He grimaced. “What have you found out?” he asked.
“I’m not at liberty to tell you that.” Not with the Pack suspect.
He leaned more forward, letting the moonlight fall on his face. His gaze was direct and difficult to hold.
Our stares locked and I gritted my teeth. Five seconds into the conversation and he was already giving me the alpha-stare. If he started clicking his teeth, I’d have to make a run for it. Or introduce him to my sword.
“You will tell me what you know now,” he said.
He said nothing, so I elaborated. “See, this kind of threat usually has an ‘or’ attached to it. Or an ‘and.’ ‘Tell me and I’ll allow you to live’ or something like that.”
His eyes ignited with gold. His gaze was unbearable now.
“I can make you beg to tell me everything you know,” he said and his voice was a low growl. It sent icy fingers of terror down my spine.
I gripped Slayer’s hilt until it hurt. The golden eyes were burning into my soul. “I don’t know,” I heard my own voice say, “you look kinda out of shape to me. How long has it been since you took care of your own dirty work?”
His right hand twitched. Muscles boiled under the taut skin and fur burst, sheathing the arm. Claws slid from thickening fingers. The hand snapped inhumanly fast. I weaved back and it fanned my face, leaving no scars. A strand of hair fell onto my left cheek, severed from my braid. The claws retracted.
“I think I remember how,” he said.
A spark of magic ran from my fingers into Slayer’s hilt and burst into the blade, coating the smooth metal in a milky-white glow. Not that the glow actually did anything useful, but it looked bloody impressive.
“Any time you want to dance,” I said.
He smiled, slow and lazy. “Not laughing anymore, little girl?”