If You Give a Hyena a Gun, It Will Need a Novel

Gunmetal Magic
Ilona Andrews
ACE Fantasy, July 2012
Review by Staff Writer, Mia Nilo

             Ilona Andrews redefined urban-fantasy with a world ravaged by shifts between magic and technology, whose citizens rejoice to use cell phones in one moment and deal with phoenix-induced fires and harpy neighbors in the next.  Readers have followed Kate Daniels through five successful novels and this summer Ilona Andrews has also redefined the idea of “spin-off” with Gunmetal Magic, a full-fledged novel following the adventures of Kate’s best friend and Class-A sniper, Andrea Nash.  While Ilona Andrews has indulged her willing fanbase with short stories featuring such characters as Dali in Magic Dreams and more recently, Julie in Magic Tests, as well as originally introducing Andrea Nash through Magic Mourns; Gunmetal Magic explodes onto the scene, shooting down the cliché, kicking ass, and rekindling a romance that has been on hiatus since Magic Bleeds.

          Advertised as “A novel in the world of Kate Daniels”, Gunmetal Magic is set in some unspecified time after Magic Slays and is set concurrently with the Kate Daniels novella, Magic Gifts (included within the book), which explains why Kate and Curran are largely absent from the narrative and thereby allowing Andrea’s story to thrive within the new perspective.  Investigating the suspicious deaths of four shapeshifters, Andrea Nash, firearms expert and detective extraordinaire, must battle demi-gods, mirror creatures, mutant cultists, and a hyena shapeshifter ex-boyfriend—the usual fare when dealing with post-Shift Atlanta—while wading through the ever shifting sands of shape-shifter politics, a turbulent love life, and rebuilding her identity after losing her hard-earned place in the Order of Knights for Merciful Aid.

           Overall, the novel is incredibly successful.  It introduces Andrea as an interesting new voice, made meticulously different from that of Kate’s, despite also being a stubborn and capable female lead.  There’s an exactness to Andrea, which is very much expressed in her choice of weapon.  Andrea deals exclusively in firearms, from rifles to crossbows, which are used for certain situations in very certain ways in order to be effective.  Andrea operates similarly.  She does her job a certain way, interacts with people a certain way, and conducts herself a certain way.  What made the transition to Andrea’s perspective easy and enjoyable was that the audience got to follow along her journey as she worked through old wounds from her life as a “minority” shapeshifter and baggage from losing a job that upheld her core beliefs.  Andrea gradually transforms into a woman who still has a strong ethical code, but also a strong desire to hunt in her other form and laugh while bathed in her enemy’s blood.

             The way Ilona Andrews crafts romances is something that has my inner animal howling with manic glee.  I find that many romances placed in the supernatural realm are somewhat hard to believe.  I think something that occurs frequently now in the urban-fantasy genre is to use the supernatural cop-out to create immediate and heart-stopping “connections” between characters that seem to carry their romances throughout the entire book.  A vampire walks into a bar and immediately a whole cadre of female heroines from Sookie Stackhouse to Anita Blake are entranced and inexplicably drawn to the hottest supernatural guy in the room.  I’m not saying this premise can’t be used to great effect.  Ilona Andrews similarly uses this last boon to true love with the idea of “mates” among shapeshifters, but what really keeps my stone-hard rationalist and empirical heart aflutter while reading Ilona Andrews’ work is the human aspect of it: disappointment.  Truckloads and boatloads of disappointments and misunderstandings, petty jabs, trust issues, and arguments over little things that imply much bigger things within the relationship. Andrea and Raphael’s romance, while strewn with heady scents and predatory conflicts, is still relatable, the supernatural aspect adds just a little spice to the hard earned love.  It was also unapologetically sexy at times and humorous at others.

           Another treat great treat for me in Ilona Andrews’ work is the treatment of secondary characters within the series.  Rather than just having flat secondary characters, used little more than convenient story devices like props to be placed within the narrative, Ilona Andrews’ many recurring characters are incredibly diverse and textured throughout the novels, which is what made Gunmetal Magic even possible.  Asciano returns as less rebellious and impulsive, but no less eager or naive in his youth, serving as a good foil to Derek and a good apprentice to Andrea.  Barabas and Doolittle featured in this novel as natural favorites, wielding their respective expertises in medical magic and law.  After his brief appearance in Magic Slays, Roman, the Russian volv of darkness and evil, showcases as an eccentric and surprisingly charming character with enough power to keep up with Andrea and Raphael.

          Ilona Andrews’ work is what I refer to as “Smart Entertainment”.  Yes, there’s a gratuitous amount of romantic overtures throughout the book, but it’s framed by an investigation and danger that’s easily just as important, full of interesting twists and a pithy turn of phrase that had me laughing out loud with embarrassing frequency.  Villains who are never one-dimensional and secondary characters who always exceed their abilities to forward the narrative make the world they’re built into all the more richer.  I can’t wait to read the sixth Kate Daniels novel in July, but Gunmetal Magic was definitely the summer blockbuster that got me pumped for more.

Rating

Plot 

Sword

Both the investigation and romance really moves and the Egyptian mythology insert was pretty cool, but there was a twist at the ending that I’ve definitely read before, though it hardly detracted from the gripping story.

Characters

 

Magic

A hyena-were sniper, a murderous and prank-happy ex-boyfriend, and a charming Russian cursor set out to kill a god—awesomeness ensues.

Creativity

Magic

From snake-bites to dig-sites, nothing about Ilona Andrews’ work is ordinary and any detail is guaranteed to be given an intriguing history and purpose that makes complete sense.

Unreality

Magic

Gunmetal Magic was a fantastic edition to the Kate Daniels series and adds texture to the vivid world of post-Shift Atlanta and its inhabitants.

Want to know more about the author? Check out this exclusive Unreal interview with one of the authors of Gunmetal Magic, Ilona Gordon here.
Rabid for more? Check out the authors’ Official Websitefacebook, or Twitter.
Ready to commit to the series?  Buy it now on Amazon.
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