“Listen well, because I won’t be repeating myself, you racist prick. If you make any trouble for me or my people, I’ll hunt you down like the pig you are and carve a second mouth across your gut. They’ll find you hanging by your own intestines.” […]
I opened my fingers. He crashed on the ground, his face white as a sheet. He scrambled backward, rolled to his feet, and took off.
The three shapeshifters stared at me, openmouthed.
“That’s how you intimidate people. No witnesses and not a mark on him. Get your asses to the car.”
Starting a new Kate Daniels novel is an annual high point for me. There’s something heady and wonderful about Ilona Andrews’ vision of a magic-ravaged Atlanta, where shapeshifters, demigods and mercenaries with magical swords roam. In Gunmetal Magic, Andrews fans get an extra dose of badassery in the form of a spinoff novel starring not Kate Daniels, but her best friend, fellow former Knight of the Order, the shapeshifter Andrea Nash.
Read the last Book Smugglers on Zoe Marriott's 'Daughter of the Flames.'
Gunmetal Magic begins with an emotionally exhausted Andrea, who is trying to get over the devastating loss of her Knightship—thanks to the Order’s discovery that Andrea is a closeted bouda, a human-hyena shapeshifter—and her breakup with Raphael Medrano by throwing herself into her new job as a private investigator.
Unfortunately for Andrea, her first job involves the Pack and Raphael’s reclamation business. Someone has managed to kill four boudas—no small feat—at the site of Raphael’s latest dig, stealing some as of yet unknown objects from a concealed vault discovered at the site. Andrea’s investigation unearths some seriously bad mojo brewing in post-Shift Atlanta, with the resurrection of ancient gods, fanged snake-monsters and the possible obliteration of all life on Earth at stake.
I wasn’t sure how much I’d love swapping Kate Daniels’ self-assured first-person narration for Andrea’s, as Kate remains one of my personal favorite urban fantasy heroines ever. But I’m thrilled to report that Andrea is every bit as memorable and badass as her bestie. While Andrea and Kate share similar features and habits (a penchant for deadly weapons and an inability to back down even in the most impossible and deadly of situations, for example), Andrea is her own distinct character with her own tortured, haunted past. You think Kate had it bad with her secret heritage and rough/supersecret-warrior-training upbringing? Andrea had it a whole lot worse.
We finally learn firsthand why Andrea has such a chip on her shoulder, why she wouldn’t walk away from the Order, a thankless organization that turned its back on her the second it found out she was a shapeshifter, and why she refuses to join the Atlanta Pack despite the security it would provide—at the cost of her own relationship with Raphael, no less. Andrea’s motivations are complex, her past a bitter one of abuse and pain; and I appreciated the care and sensitivity that Andrews takes in delving into Andrea’s psyche. Kudos to Andrews, too, for making Raphael a believable character (albeit one that is still hard to take seriously) and for adroitly dealing with the couple’s relationship issues with minimal melodrama.
Beyond the characters, like the other books in the Kate Daniels' world, Gunmetal Magic excels in the action, worldbuilding and magic department. I loved the new pantheon of gods introduced in this book, just as I loved the closer look at Clan Bouda and Pack politics, especially where Andrea is concerned, as a beastkin, or the offspring of a shapeshifter and a wild animal. The fight sequences are good and bloody, the magic is bitingly potent, the villains sufficiently villainous and capable of destroying the world. What else could a girl want in a contemporary urban fantasy novel?
In Book Smugglerish, Gunmetal Magic hits the mark and gets an enthusiastic 8 out of 10.
 Ok, that’s kind of a boldfaced lie. There’s some cheesetastic melodrama in Gunmetal Magic. But it’s the good, digestible kind of drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously. At one point, Kate Daniels herself steps in and makes a tongue-in-cheek remark at Andrea and Raphael’s shenanigans as being reminiscent of a Spanish novela.
Thea James is half of the maniacal book review duo behind The Book Smugglers and a newly minted M.S. in digital publishing graduate. When she isn't voraciously devouring the latest and greatest in speculative fiction, or swamped in papers and proposals, she can be found blogging, watching bad horror movies and concocting general plans toward world domination.