This volume includes the novella Magic Gifts — previously seen as a free download at Ilona Andrews’s website this past Christmas season — and the full-length novel Gunmetal Magic, a spinoff of the KATE DANIELS series starring Kate’s best friend Andrea Nash. Magic Gifts is placed at the end of the book but should actually be read first, and there is chronological overlap between the two.
Magic Gifts is sort of a “monster of the week” episode, in which Kate and Curran try to have a romantic date but end up trying to solve a mysterious death and stop a cursed necklace before it can kill again. Meanwhile, there’s a power struggle in the Mercenary Guild that also needs Kate’s attention. It’s filled with action and funny bickering, and is a short read that’s a lot of fun if you’re a Kate fan.
Gunmetal Magic is, as mentioned above, a full-length novel, coming in at around 300 pages. Unfortunately, it feels kind of like it should have been a novella too, in terms of how much “meat” is in the story, which I’ll explain shortly.
We pick up Andrea as she’s reeling from her breakup with werehyena Raphael and realizing that she will soon be required to join the Pack. She’s forced to work with Raphael when several shapeshifters are murdered — by freakishly large snakes — at a reclamation site Raphael is overseeing. Now the two must figure out who orchestrated the attack, what they were after and, as is standard for a KATE DANIELS book, how it all ties into world mythology. Along the way they also have to contend with their continuing feelings for one another.
What hampered my experience of Gunmetal Magic is that much of it seems to be either (a) not actually part of the novel’s central plot or (b) rehashed from previous KATE DANIELS installments. There’s a big monster battle early in the book that — while well-written, set in an interesting part of post-Shift Atlanta, and carrying a valuable moral — doesn’t actually have much to do with the rest of the story. There’s another monster that pops up again after having just appeared in Magic Gifts. There are conversations that are carried over from Magic Gifts, just seen from the other side. And the courtship between Andrea and Raphael feels a lot like the one between Kate and Curran, complete with a huge misunderstanding and a whole lot of tampering with each other’s homes. (In fairness, breaking and entering was always part of the Andrea/Raphael relationship, but it’s so much more in the forefront here that it sticks out.)
I also must confess that I like Kate’s voice better than Andrea’s. Andrea reads as more bitter, more abrasive; while her traumatic past certainly justifies her outlook on life, the simple truth is that Kate is funnier and her humor is part of what I love about her. On the other hand, the authors are to be commended for making the two characters distinct in their voices.
All of this aside, Gunmetal Magic is worth reading for anyone who follows the series. The authors fill in Andrea’s past and move her character forward in several ways. Not only is her on-again-off-again relationship with Raphael resolved, she must also come to terms with her identity as a shapeshifter and find a way to join the Pack on her own terms. (The scene between her, Aunt B, and Aunt B’s beta in the restaurant is particularly awesome — and as a bonus, it’s funny.) Her journey to self-acceptance has been a rocky one, and its development here is rewarding.
While Gunmetal Magic doesn’t quite measure up to the best KATE DANIELS books, and could probably have been shorter without sacrificing anything essential, it’s well-written and series fans should read it in order to gain more insight into this complex, sympathetic character.