Monday, September 24, 2012

"Gunmetal Magic" by Ilona Andrews- Great Heroine but Lackluster Plot

~Official Synopsis
After being kicked out of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea’s whole existence is in shambles. She tries to put herself back together by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend. When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano—the male alpha of the Clan Bouda, and Andrea’s former lover—die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate. Now she must work with Raphael as her search for the killer leads into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta. And dealing with her feelings for him might have to take a back seat to saving the world…

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews has been very successful thanks to some top notch world-building that envisions a post-apocalyptic world in which magic and technology overlap. When a magic wave hits the world is alive with potent and deadly magic that makes technology obsolete and vampires a reality. One can use technological devices like computers, or guns, when the magic is down- but you better be prepared for the magic to return as your gas powered car won't get you home when the magic reigns supreme.

The series has mostly focused on the character of Kate Daniels and her efforts to keep humans safe in a magically altered Atlanta.  "Gunmetal Magic" is an offshoot of the main series and tells the story of Andrea Nash: a were-hyena who kept her true nature a secret from her employer, the Order of Merciful Aid, because of a deep shame of her animalistic side. Andrea has always been someone stuck between two worlds. Never fully accepted as a Were, because of her inability to fully transform, she is also looked down upon by the normal human population and cast out of the Order when her secret is revealed.

Andrea ends up at a crossroads of sorts. She has to learn to embrace her Were nature and become a member of the Atlanta pack in order to stay in the city. But an abusive childhood makes her incredibly reluctant to join--as does the fact that her former boyfriend is the alpha male of the clan she would have to join. When she's called in to investigate a the murder of several Weres, apparently by snakebite, Andrea is forced to decide if she wants to be a member of the pack, or if she should go it alone and leave Atlanta for good.

If there's one thing that stands out as an outstanding feature of "Gunmetal Magic" is has to be Andrea herself. She's a great heroine. She has had an uncommonly rough life so she's learned to be tough. There are scars, physical and mental, but Andrea does everything on her own terms and doesn't allow herself to be manipulated into anything.


The one thing that bothers me with a lot of paranormal romances are the way the male leads are generally written. Too often they are presented as reformed bad-boys; and Raphael, Andrea's love interest, is no different. In earlier books Raphael is an unabashed womanizer. He's lazy and spoiled and something of a narcissist. But when Andrea comes into the picture he's a changed man-- or, more accurately, the story is re-written in "Gunmetal Magic" to make Raphael less objectionable as Andrea's love interest. The re-imagining of Raphael in "Gunmetal Magic" would have us believe that he is a successful business man who really wasn't that bad in the earlier books. He's was womanizer but only needed the right woman (namely Andrea) to tame him.

The problem with Raphael is that he really isn't that likable. He's idealized physically, but that particular fact only makes the relationship seem more superficial in the face of his personal shortcomings.   Like most books that feature a romance as a big part of the plot there are a number of misunderstandings that keep the two characters apart. The way Raphael handles his anger and hurt is to lash out and try to humiliate Andrea-- so it's hard to root for him as the romantic interest. The would-be other love interest, Ronan, is more likable but the story dictates that Raphael and Andrea are meant for each other, so....

However, the love story is only a small part of the book and that ends up being a good thing. Like all of Andrews' books "Gunmetal Magic" is full of action and magic and those aspects end up being the strong point of the story. Andrea finally embraces her Were nature and it's fun to watch her give in to her wild side. We learn a lot more about Andrea's past and there's even a cathartic moment when she's given the chance to confront someone from her former life--though it does occur in an entirely too-convenient circumstance.

The story itself is slightly convoluted and involves the resurrection of an Ancient Egyptian god. One complaint I have about that aspect of the story is that Andrews seems to have developed a habit of injecting nonsensical rules as part of the storyline so that the main characters have to save the day in isolation from other, powerful allies (I had the same complaint with Fate's Edge). The god in this story, Ineptu, is the one to tell Andrea that she cannot complete certain tasks with the help the Atlanta pack and limits the world-saving efforts to a small group of heroes. The logic never makes much sense and takes something away from the overall plot.

The action is also good, but sometimes silly. I couldn't help but roll my eyes a bit at the part where Andrea attacks a monster with a jackhammer- (it's as awkward as it sounds).  But it's the nature of light paranormal fiction to keep an almost frantic pace, so I can't knock "Gunmetal Magic" for essentially doing what it's supposed to do. Despite some flaws it's still a very readable book and Andrea is a genuinely great lead character. The magic is as imaginative as ever and some good twists and turns will definitely keep readers engaged until the last page. "Gunmetal Magic" doesn't tread new ground in paranormal fiction, or even in the Kate Daniels mythology, but fans of the series should enjoy Andrea's story.

3 out of 5 stars.


Blodeuedd said...

It was good...just not as good as the Kate books

SQT said...

That seems to be the consensus.

Charles Gramlich said...

Definitely an interesting idea. I also really like that title.