Posted on January 31, 2012 by alanajoli
Ilona Andrews is probably best known for her Kate Daniels series, but she is also (along with husband and co-author Gordon) the author of a paranormal romance series about life on “the Edge,” a borderland between a world full of magic (the Weird) and our mundane reality (the Broken). (It should be noted that while I’m classifying the books as paranormal romance, due to the structure of each novel — the books each feature the love story of a couple who end up in a happily ever after at the conclusion — other reviewers have considered them “rustic fantasy” or “unclassifiable.” Thus, your mileage may vary.)
Edgers are a unique bunch, full of enough magic that they can pass between parallel worlds — usually. Some have too much magic to survive crossing into the Broken. Others don’t have enough magic to survive crossing into the Weird. Thus, the Edge is full of exiles, con artists, criminals, and people who are generally down on their luck. Those misfits make for compelling heroes, and with book three, the series has just started to hit its stride into an overarching plot, giving it a great potential to draw readers from beyond the paranormal romance readership.
On the Edge
When Rose graduated from high school, she made a mistake: at the party for all the Edger seniors graduating from Broken high school, Rose showed off the full extent of her magical talent. She flashed white — which means that she showed her magic was just as strong and skilled as the “bluebloods,” the nobles of the Weird. This made her a prize not only in the Edge, but also for prospective suitors (read: breeders) in the neighboring Weird. After attempts to kidnap and coerce her, Rose has given up on trusting anyone, and is focused on providing a home for her two younger brothers, George and Jack, with what little money she makes in the Broken. When Declan, a blueblood from the Weird, shows up on her door step, she thinks he’s just another source of trouble.
In fact, Declan and trouble show up in the Edge at the same time, but the real danger isn’t a blueblood interested in winning Rose’s hand, it’s a pack of evil, magic-eating hounds raised by a powerful magical artifact that has fallen into the wrong hands. Keeping her friends and family safe will take all of Rose’s magical talent — and will require her to put a little bit of faith in the mysterious blueblood. Unlike most paranormal romances, On the Edge never reveals Declan’s perspective, so while it’s no surprise that he’s the hero, his motivation is kept delightfully secret. The characters are fun, and Rose’s brothers feel like real children plagued by magical problems. The novel is a fun entry into a cool new world.
The second book in the series stars William, a changeling who shape shifts into a wolf, who was a pivotal secondary character in On the Edge. Raised in an orphanage and then a military boarding school that trained him to be a killer, William doesn’t believe he’ll ever be the type of man to have a family. He certainly doesn’t expect to get involved in a romance while he’s on a secret mission for the Mirror, the spies who work for the Weird kingdom of Adrianglia. Having been burned by the Adrianglian government once before, William isn’t eager to get involved, but the Mirror gives him the opportunity to hunt down a changeling butcher from the Dukedom of Louisiana, a monster named Spider who has literally traded his humanity for monstrous abilities. While William was in the Adrianglian military, he fought Spider twice before, failing to kill him both times, but surviving their encounters — a feat no other soldier or agent has matched.
The mission leads him to Cerise Mar, whose parents have been kidnapped by Spider and the Hand, the Dukedom of Louisiana’s secret service. Cerise and her family are fighters, descendants of exiles from the Dukedom of Louisiana and native magic users of the Mire, a swamp region where only the toughest can survive. Cerise practices an old form of swordplay — bending her flash around her sword blade to make it sharp enough to cut through any man or monster — that makes her almost as deadly as William.
The narrative switches perspectives to include both hero and heroine as they try to figure each other out — the more traditional paranormal romance style — but remains adventure (and horror) heavy for the genre. Spider and his minions are all modified by magic — some of them have tentacles, others have gills, and all of them are twisted beyond humanity into nightmarish creatures. But with heroes who are deadly — and who don’t mind killing when it’s called for — it’s good to have villains that are so utterly in need of killing.
Book three ties together the first two novels by bringing Jack and George — now twelve and fourteen — back as major characters, while continuing the plot where Bayou Moon left off. The Hand and the Mirror remain engaged in their cold war, and the theft of an artifact from a neighboring nation sends both organizations scurrying to recover it. Kaldar, Cerise’s cousin and a scoundrel, is the Mirror agent sent to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. When he finds the thief, Audrey, he discovers that not only is she amazingly gifted as a lockpick, but she’s completely uninterested in a life of crime and is determined to go straight with a job in the Broken. The theft of the artifact was her last job — one she did only to keep her father and brother out of trouble. Because she refused to take part in the hand off after the job was finished, Audrey had no idea of the object’s power, or that so many governments would want it back. If the Hand were to get the artifact, all of the Edge would be in danger, and Audrey’s guilt over her part in the theft makes her agree to join Kaldar in getting it back. Stowaways Jack and George also make their first attempts as agents for the Mirror, making the romance novel into a spy thriller and a coming of age story wrapped into one.
The stakes rise throughout the novel, pointing to coming war between Adrianglia and the Dukedom of Louisiana. With two years of time passing in the world between each book, it won’t take long until the two scene-stealing kids of On the Edge grow up enough for their own adventures. In the meantime, it will be a long wait for book four — especially since the release date has yet to be announced!
Review by Alana Abbott
Tags | urban fantasy