Kate Daniels has had some measure of stability throughout the series, but all that goes straight down the toilet in "Magic Bleeds." Ilona Andrews' fourth book focusing on the magical merc is a harrowing experience from beginning to end, filled with gruesome action, feisty romance, and a nearly unkillable enemy. In other words, it's finger-gnawingly brilliant.
Atlanta is being hit by a series of impossible attack -- a werecoyote is eaten alive by a magical strain of syphilis, the Casino is attacked by a pyromancer, and the Guild's founder turns inside out from magic cholera. Every major power in Atlanta is on red alert, but Kate is having some troubles figuring out who's responsible, since the culprit's appearance seems to change every time he/she attacks.
And after a disastrous dealing with Saiman, she discovers the true identity of the "Steel Mary" who is quietly attacking the People, the Pack and the Guild -- a supernatural horror from the earliest days of human civilization. Even worse, it has a personal connection to her. As the city is ravaged by one supernatural attack after another, Kate, Curran and her allies must enter a battle that they may not be able to win.
It's not quite Jim Butcher's "Changes," but "Magic Bleeds" takes virtually everything in Kate Daniels' life and turns it on its head -- she suffers some devastating losses, makes some important personal choices, and is now in more danger than ever before. Some is good, some is bad -- but Kate's life is irrevocably changed in almost every way.
In fact, Andrews sticks the main plot on the backburner for awhile so some attention can be paid to the relationship between Curran and Kate. Without revealing too much, their fiery sexual tension finally gets some kind of resolution, only to stumble across some NEW problems.
But the main plot is pretty brilliant as well -- Andrews' prose is painted in blood, fire and poison, with some genuinely harrowing action scenes, snappy dialogue ("Did you have any trouble getting that ego through the door?" "Not in the least"), and some hilarious situations (during a war-of-pranks with Curran, Kate's butt gets literally glued to her chair). And she inserts some fascinating new facts into her world's mythology, such as Kate describing the origins of the vampires.
Kate is her usual self here -- volatile, stubborn, strong and capable, as well as a bit paranoid about her rotten family. But Andrews takes the time to explore her tenderer side when she adopts an "attack poodle" ("I hate you. "You stink, you slobber, and you think I'm a nice person"). Curran is fleshed out considerably -- and even more important, he starts interacting with Kate as an equal rather than a domineering jerk. The one downside: not enough Saiman!
Magic bites, magic burns, and now "Magic Bleeds." Ilona Andrews' fourth Kate Daniels book is a roaring, bloodsoaked adventure full of shocking changes -- and the potential for even more.