We are officially over halfway through our 2021 Book Chat – I hope you’re having even half as much fun as I’m having with this! Our July read is Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. This husband/ wife writing duo tops so many favorite UF book lists that I was excited to give this one a try. Let’s start with the usual book details.
Amazon: 4.5 with 2,725 ratings; Goodreads: 4.03 with 115,911 ratings
Published Mar 27, 2007; 10 book series
Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way our of her league—but she wouldn’t want it any other way…
Despite this always being a favorite with readers, there were negative reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (remember this fellow authors when you receive less than glowing reviews). Anyway, I will admit though it was difficult to get details beyond ‘it just wasn’t for me’ or ‘I expected more’ in those reviews.
Negative reader review points:
Let’s jump right into the fun of Book Chat and discuss these points and then I’ll share a bit more on my personal review!
This was one where readers were incredibly divided. Some noted it was too confusing and not enough information. Others called the first half of the book a slow moving info dump. If I’d checked the reviews before buying, I would have been left very confused. Too much world building?? Too little world building??
For my part, I was confused at times, but it’s book 1 which means it’s a whole new world for me. You have to balance the action and back story carefully to engage the reader without boring them. I thought the authors’ world building choices worked here. If you’ve read my other Book Chats, you know I’m an impatient reader so I will skip scenes with too much description and not enough dialogue. Here, I had enough info for me to picture it without boring me. The most difficult part for me to keep straight were the factions and their history/ power/ culture. I must blame myself for this as I do skip parts (again, impatient reader here). However, I appreciated the context clues to remind of the main players.
And, there are A LOT of players. Again, many felt it was confusing to be plopped down into an existing world, but that’s part of what I liked. I enjoyed that the world fully exists and I find out about it in smaller pieces between character interactions and development as I read.
Speaking of characters…
Again, readers were divided. Some felt they all blended together while others ranted in detail about the horrible people. Some described Kate as the usual UF heroine with too much magic and everyone man falling for her. Others thought she was stupid. One thought she was a poor imitation of Harry Dresden and another a poor imitation of Anita Blake. There were also those who went off on Curran as repugnant.
My view?? I really liked both Kate and Curran! There were some characters who blended (let’s blame that impatient reader syndrome), but Kate and Curran stood out favorably for me. Kate was brash and cocky on the outside, but we saw more of her thoughts so you see it’s a show. As for Curran, well, being king of the jungle suits his personality perfectly. I certainly want more interactions between them, but I still enjoyed reading them separately too. While I can skip setting descriptions, I want to like and cheer for the characters – that was definitely the case here!
It’s possible I’ve watched too many horror movies or I skipped the scenes here, but I was surprised by the descriptions of gore and darkness. I see darkness as a lack of hope or even ambition to do good – basically just an overdose of a doom and gloom perspective. This alternate reality setting does have crime and ruins, but it also has friendships, hope, loyalty, and sparks of love. It didn’t feel dark to me. When it comes to gore, I’m more concerned about who the ‘victim’ is and as long as it’s the bad guys then I’m okay with it.
I also saw comments that it lacked humor which contributed to the darkness. Having found the ‘laugh out loud’ books recommended to me as too much and not funny, I enjoyed this particular style of humor. It was more snark, sarcasm, and bantering which all work for me.
****4 Stars from me**** I read this book in a matter of days (I’m typically much slower) and will continue the series. The characters and magical world suit my preferences as does the writing style. I was fully invested in Kate and extremely interested to learn more about Curran and the magical community. I even shared some great lines on social media and with friends. It was a fun, quick read which I have already recommended to others. Let’s be honest – recommending a book is a clear sign of liking it!
Those who have read the series say this is the weakest one and they only get better. If you didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, you may want to consider trying the second one anyway. Obviously, that call is yours – everyone should read books they enjoy!!
How about you, fellow readers? Did you love this one? Were you disappointed? Please share your thoughts by commenting below!
It is time to again review the monthly read as a writer, so feel free to jump down to the cat & book picture at the end if this isn’t for you!
What UF author hasn’t heard of Ilona Andrews??
While I am still learning my genre and market, I’ve heard of this husband/ wife duo many, many times (this book was published in 2007). Typically, the first two recommendations I see in readers groups are Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews. I enjoyed this more the Briggs’ Moon Called which I read for an earlier Book Chat, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here.
In multiple groups, I see the excitement of readers for this author duo. As I mentioned, they top recommended reads and favorite author lists. Each new release date is celebrated and readers even share interesting blog posts and stories from the authors’ website. I definitely think that’s something to consider beyond their writing craft.
Clearly, no book is for everyone and there are readers who didn’t enjoy this book. That’s to be expected. What truly impresses me is the loyalty of this fan base and their continued excitement. That’s a lesson no author can afford to ignore.
We’ve discussed characters, world building, pacing, POV, etc in previous chats. We haven’t truly discussed marketing. If you have published or have researched it, you realize the writing craft is separate from the business side. I’ve posted previously about marketing/ branding so you can check out that post (Marketing: Fishing with Dynamite) HERE if you’re interested.
As I shared in that post, one great way to learn the business side is to stalk authors who have gotten it right. I follow Kristen Painter as I enjoy her books and appreciate her approach to business. Now, I will also be following Ilona Andrews and taking notes. They meet and exceed their readers’ expectations repeatedly and are a brand name in the UF reading community. Their fans adore them and follow from series to series – they talk about them online to share the love – they re-read the series. Aren’t these things we all want our readers to do? I think there’s definitely a lot to learn from Ilona Andrews on both the writing and business sides.
One particular point to share immediately about their marketing/ business strategy – they post short stories set in their various worlds on their website. Again, I learned of this when readers posted about it in readers groups (and yes, they were giddy about the release). I have some short stories set in my Rahki world and some for upcoming series. I use them to develop my fantasy worlds and work on my writing craft as short stories can be harder for me. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to share and use them (Patreon, Kindle Vella, newsletters, etc). Ilona Andrews has shown me a new option with direct contact with readers via an author website.
Another point to mention: other writers aren’t your competition. Please do NOT compare your books, internet presence, and stats with Ilona Andrews. Yes, we can learn from them, but do not get discouraged by or bitter about their success. They’ve been on their writing journey for over 14 years. Regardless of where we are at on our journeys, we will need to put the hours/ years and efforts. Writing can be hard but so can running a business. As writers, we are living in the creative and business worlds. I like that we have other authors to help show us the way in both so we can learn and keep moving forward.
What about you, fellow authors? In addition to improving your writing craft, how are you improving your business and marketing acumen? Please feel free to comment and/ or to reach out if you’d like to do a guest post and share your thoughts.
Thank you to my fellow readers and writers for joining another chat! You can get the 2021 scheduled HERE and each chat will be listed at the bottom of that post as well.
And the picture below is another one with Izzie – I’ve now gathered my ‘cats and books’ picture in an album on my personal Facebook page!
Now, through some fluke I left August off the schedule so I don’t technically have an August read. However, I think I’ll be adding something from Lyndsay Buroker or maybe Kim Harrison. Have you read something by either you’d recommend? Don’t be shy – comment below with your choice for our August Book Chat!
Until next time, happy reading and writing to all!