I’m going to do my best to write about this as a separate book from the others in the series, but I’ve read and reread it a few times so it all kind of runs in my head as a continuous thing. Okay, to start- the world that Ilona has created is completely awesome. Like, wow. I’m very impressed by the creativity of it. Basically, there is natural magic in the world and it used to be in balance with technology but then along came humans, and we are, by nature, meddlers. We push things. That started the pendulum swinging. The book takes place at some unspecified point in the near-ish future, after the pendulum has started to swing back from technology to magic. Unfortunately, it’s not a neat process. Magic floods the world in waves, sometimes there, sometimes not. Sometimes cars work, guns fire and telephones ring, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes magical wards keep you safe and witches and shifters can do their thing, and sometimes they can’t. It’s very chaotic, which is fertile ground for a story I’ve always found.
These stories are based around Kate Daniels, one of the most kick ass heroines I’ve ever read. Few can make a heroine who can kick as much butt and still have a heart. I say this with experience, since I’ve read a few where you are left wondering what the hell is wrong with that person (cough, Anita Blake, cough, cough). She has been raised in the post- Shift world and she has very, very powerful magic and a serious grudge against an even more powerful person. She also has a sword, with which she is incredibly proficient. All in all, she is very deadly and, even though she won’t admit it, very, very scared. She is in hiding from this powerful person until she is powerful enough to take them down. The reader is thrust into this very complicated situation as her guardian, the man who raised her after her father died, is murdered. Kate decides to hunt the murderer down and this leads her to getting involved with the shifters and their incredibly powerful, and scary, leader, Curran, as well as the Knights and the Master’s of the Dead. Oh, and Ilona’s take on vampires is completely awesome. There’s none of that romanticizing vampires crap around here, oh no. In these books, vampires are straight up dead, as mindless as a cockroach and as blood-lusty as you would expect a mindless vampire to be. But, in the hands of a necromancer, they can be navigated and used as a very useful and very deadly tool. This harkens back to the old folk tales of vampires, not the glamorized, sex symbol version of today. It’s very refreshing and very awesome.
Anyway, her guardian’s killer turns out to be more than just a common thug, obviously, and a very real threat to everyone and especially Kate, since he targets her next. It’s a shorter book compared to the rest of the series, but it’s a great introduction to a fantastic series and I absolutely cannot recommend this series and this author enough. She may well be my favorite author, after Terry Pratchett (since nothing can knock him from my number one spot). Seriously, go read it now.