Review: Ilona Andrews’s “Magic Shifts”
by Miles Raymer
It’s understandable that the eighth book in a fantasy series might come off a bit stale. Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series is one of the best I’ve come across, but Magic Shifts is far from its best installment. Fortunately, what constitutes a slump for this story could be the peak of many lesser narratives, so there is still a lot to like. Magic Shifts is far from a failure, although it does suffer from some sluggish and rehashed elements.
My main complaint about Magic Shifts is the same thing that bothered me about Magic Slays, the fifth book in the series. The quality of Kate Daniels books tends to rise and fall with the presence or absence of a truly engaging villain, and the villain causing havoc in Magic Shifts feels somewhat phoned in and generally unrelated to the story arc Andrews has worked hard to establish.
All of this comes with a caveat, which is that Andrews ties things up very nicely by the end, and opens the way to some brand new and enticing developments. So while I basically enjoyed this book’s exposition, which shows Kate and Curran piecing together their post-Pack life, the rest of the book was a bit of a slog until the final few chapters. This felt like a got-to-get-to-where-we’re-going Kate Daniels book, rather than a here-we-are-let’s-kick-some-ass one. And that’s really not such a bad thing; it just means this one isn’t as exciting and compelling as many of its predecessors.
Releasing a less than stellar addition to this series certainly can’t stop Andrews from coming up with plenty of interesting ideas, clever banter, and thrilling fights. The nuts and bolts that Kate Daniels acolytes have learned to love are all here. This story continues its work as an intelligent meditation on the proper application(s) of power, and Andrews embellishes the land-claiming dynamic from the previous novel in some smart ways, enriching Kate’s understanding of the power and responsibility that flows from having claimed a geographical region. Andrews also tackles generational disagreements about tradition and propriety––a conflict that will hit home for anyone who’s ever fought with a parent about exactly which societal values are worth honoring (which is everyone).
Not really much more to say. I loved this book’s climax and conclusion, and suspect that Book 9 will pick up the pace and bring Kate closer to whatever destiny Andrews has cooked up for her.