What is the hardest thing about reviewing a book? When you actually know how to read and spell words, the easiest thing in the world is telling people what you thought about it. The hardest thing to do, in my opinion, is review a book that you like.
I've done bad reviews. Anyone who has read anything I've done here knows that I don't hold back. But when it's a good book I always get this dull look on my face and feel the need to write out in big letters, "THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME!" and not much more than that. On the opposite end of things, when I read a book I hate, I can tell you in what flavor of hate it , anywhere from the "I didn't care for this book, but maybe it's just not for me" category, to,"I wouldn't recommend this to anyone with two brain cells to rub together." That being the case, reviewing Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews is somewhat of a challenge because I love everything about her books. But bear with me, I'll do my best.
I could go on an on about the intricacies of Ilona Andrews books in great detail, but put simply, the women in her novels kick ass. From a femanist perspective, the women of Ilona Andrews take charge in a way that is refreshing and inspiring in a way I don't see in other books with female protagonists, but still retain their female perspectives. The reason why, is that the women in her books aren't just protagonists, they are heroes.
Gunmetal Magic takes place in the same literary world as her other books about a character named Kate Daniels. In this world, magic returned to the world and caused a semi-apocalypse. Sky-scrapers fell, worn down by magical forces while forests grew. Technology began fading, monsters began appearing, and people began changing. Shapeshifters and Vampires became prominent focal points of society, as well as magicians and necromancers (specifically people who can control vampires with their will).
After a while, magic and technology began fighting for control, making it that sometimes technology works fine and sometimes it shuts off and world starts a never ending battle to survive with magical forces. Kate Daniels, the main character of many of Andrew's books taking place in a post-shift Atlanta, Georgia, was a mercenary with strange powers, a mysterious past, and a sword that can cut through undead like a hot knife through...well...undead. She has a connection to the Pack, the local group of shape shifters living under the rule of the beast lord, Curran, and over the stories, develops a more romantic entanglement.
One of my favorite things about the characters in the Kate Daniels books is that while the men are all masculine and dominant, the women have no problems going toe to toe with them and even coming out on top. This was true of the original series, and is no different in the spin-off book, Gunmetal Magic.
The main character in Gunmetal Magic, is Andrea Nash. Andrea started out in the second or third book of the original series as a close friend and colleague of Kate's, working for The Order of Merciful Aid, a form of law enforcement in the series dealing with specifically magical issues. Andrea came off as a gun nut and a blond bombshell all mixed into one, and I loved as the character filled out of the series and was given a more prominent roll.
Andrea is secretly a beastkin. In the series, humans who develop Lycanthropy, otherwise called Lyc-V, become shape shifters. On the other side of things, animals can also develop the virus and change into humans. It's been a while since I first read about them in the story, but for the most part, these kinds of shape shifters are almost always killed on sight. This gave Andrea an interesting plot because not only does she avoid the Pack, but the Order didn't know about her either because they frown on non-humans to the point of bigotry.
In the story of Gunmetal Magic, Andrea is finding her way in the world after being outed as a shape shifter and losing her job for the Order. She now works for her friend, Kate, as a kind of private investigator, and is coming to terms with being who she is. During the course of the story, Andrea is given a job by the Pack to investigate the murder of four shape shifters working for her ex-lover, Raphael.
The books is a lot of fun to read. It sounds silly saying it, but while there were a lot of serious things take place, the characters get breaks to be frivolous and even kind of funny (the scene with Andrea getting revenge on Raphael was particularly hilarious, as well as watching Raphael getting territorial.) The fight scenes were well done and interesting and everyone just meshed well together.
Now comes the inevitable slide down to what I didn't like about this book. While it was well written and the characters are unique and fit together so well, there are points in the book that are harder to follow, especially if someone were a first time reader. Characters and events were brought up in the story, but not given greater detail, which was the same problem I had with The Spirit War. If you are starting fresh on this book, you probably wouldn't know who many of the characters are, and Andrews doesn't go into great detail about who they are or what happened that she is bringing up. I find this is harder on the plot because I keep feeling the need to go back through previous books and read about what she is talking about.
The only other thing I didn't get was the continuity issue she had at one point, and I know it's just me nit-picking, but continuity should never be optional in the editing process. When Andrea goes to interview a possible suspect in the murders, there is a big sign at the front desk saying "Happy Birthday Boss". When Andrea asks how old the boss is, the secretary says 48. When she actually gets introduced to the boss later on in the story, she describes him as being in his late thirties. As far as errors go, it's small, but a small error in The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks gave away the plot twist in the first quarter of the book by saying the wrong name, and a single decimal point mistake can kill a person.
All in all, Gunmetal Magic was a wonderful read that I would recommend to anyone already into the series, but for people who are interested in getting into it, you should definitely start with Magic Bites, the first book in the series. It's an equally great read, and much less confusing that way.