I bought Must Love Hellhounds for two reasons: Meljean Brook and Ilona Andrews. The other stories? Eh. Haven’t been impressed with Charlaine Harris’s novella offerings in the past, and I haven’t read Nalini Singh’s Psy series. But I read that the Brook story works better if you’ve read her next book, Demon Forged, already, so I’m holding it until them. So, that leaves "Magic Mourns".
I love the Kate Daniel series, and am impatient to see what happens next. With Curran a little bit, but more with the Big Bad and the Confrontation that is on the far horizon. This interim installment was a nice tidbit while fans wait for Magic Bleeds (tentative title) next spring/summer.
Andrea, a Knight of the Order, is essentially Kate’s first friend, introduced in Magic Burns. Andrea is a beastkin, child of a werehyena and hyenawere, an abomination usually killed upon birth. Somehow, she has survived and hidden her magical (secret) self…until now. But even now only a few know her secret: Kate, the Beast Lord, and the werehyena clan AKA the boudas. One bouda in particular knows her secret and has been courting her despite it, Raphael. But he’s been a hound. To date, Raphael has been pursuing and Andrea resisting because she does not want to be That Weird Thing I Haven’t Fucked Before. More than that, Andrea’s history with the clan she was born into makes her wary of trusting any of the boudas, let alone one with a reputation like Raphael’s.
Which brings us to "Magic Mourns". While holding Kate’s desk down during he medical leave, Andrea is alerted to a shapeshifter in distress, being chased by a dog the size of house. The shifter turns out to be Raphael, and the dog is Cerberus, familiar of Hades. At first it is unclear why he’s giving chase, but further adventures and investigation reveals the theft of a body and a plot by a rogue magic user (don’t want to spoil it by saying what type of magic) to find immortality.
Ilona Andrews has a talent for storytelling and world building. Little details of the post-tech magical Atlanta just add to the ambience and the story being told…without being glaringly obvious infodumping or worldbuilding.
The action was evenly paced: action -> rest and information gathering -> action -> rest and recuperate and information gathering -> action. The relationship development was balanced in among the rest and the action. My only knock is about the brevity of its development: I don’t mean that there needed to be sex on the page but that the admission of feelings and acting on them seemed abrupt after so much resistance on Andrea’s part. The lack felt like a function of limited space, though, because Andrea acknowledged that they needed work as a couple. Which is pretty cool, because usually once the h/h have hooked up, there is no acknowledgement that all won’t always be smooth sailing on calm seas. Getting Rafael’s POV might’ve helped a little, but Andrews’s has stuck to singular POVs so far…until the very end of this book, when a minor character has a brief POV spot.
This story is clearly set within the Kate Daniels world – there are hints and connections to the past and coming book(s). [Hint: after reading the very last bit of "Magic Mourns", go read the snippet posted on Andrews’s website that shows what happened to that pie.]
SPOILERY QUESTION — PLEASE STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED
It’s not a huge spoiler, but still.
I do have a question, and wonder if I’m being pedantic or just missing the point: what was the point of the kid being held hostage by the Big Bad (other than to let the h/h be heroic), and how did his kidnapping work logistically? He was the nephew of the dead man, whom the dead man had been watching. But the dead man died and was embalmed before his body and shade were stolen by Big Bad. How could he have been watching the kid? No one else took care of the kid after he died? How did the Big Bad get the kid? Was he taken some time between the death and the body snatching? And no one noticed that he was gone? His presence felt a little forced to me.
Still, I only thought about that on the second read; during the first read, I was utterly engrossed in the conflict and never thought to question his utility and placing.
The flames surged, engulfing the head. As it crashed down, bouncing once on the hard dirt, Raphael leapt to the ground. Behind him the last head shuddered and fell, catching the flames. Raphael straightened, a dark demonic figure silhouetted against the orange fire, his eyes two points of red light.
If I weren’t a trained professional, I’d have fainted from the sheer overload of his badassness.
I pointed my rifle straight up, resting the butt against my hip, and put on my Order face. Move along, nothing to see here, I do this every day. I thought of blowing imaginary smoke from the rifle barrel, but the Weatherby was long and I’m barely five feet four, so I’d look pretty stupid.
Raphael strode to me. His voice was a ragged growl torn to tatters by his fangs. "Are you alright?"
We walked away, slowly, trying to maintain our coolness. A greasy stench of charred flesh tainted the air currents.
"That was a hell of a shot," Raphael said.
"Thank you. That was a stunning display of hand-to-hand."
We killed a damn Cerberus. Kate would turn green with envy.