The Kate Daniels Series: Smartass Mercenaries with Complex Family Ties

Image: Ace via Ilona Andrews

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: Kate Daniels starts out as a mercenary with a secret heritage, trained with the purpose of killing one man. She’s supposed to keep to herself, keep hidden, until she’s ready. To avoid any ties that might make her task harder. But when her guardian is killed, she launches into an investigation that will test her ability to hold herself apart from people. And as her attachment to others grows, so her willingness to give away what she is to protect them–risking that the man she’s meant to kill will find her before she’s strong enough to defeat him.

Series: Depending on how you count one book with a change in POV characters, it’s either 9 or 10 books long so far.

POV: First person.

Preview: A sample of the first book is here. One for the latest book is here.

The last time I talked about the Kate Daniels series was some four years ago. Several books have come out since then, and the series has once again shifted direction.

There aren’t a lot of series that keep my attention for ten books, but this is one of them. Part of why is that every book delivers the same feel without being the same thing. Another is that the characters and set up don’t stagnate. Over the course of the series, Kate changes from a pathologically secretive loner, to someone with a network of ties and friendships. Her relationships with other characters grow, change, and sometimes deteriorate. Likewise, the series itself shifts along with Kate, along with the different stages of life. This forward momentum does a good job of keeping the story fresh.

Of course, the core of Kate as a character never changes. She’s brash, violent, and wisecracking–and always willing to put herself between a random stranger and danger. She tends to surprise people with how much she knows about the mythological dangers that crop up in the city. In itself, her core characterization makes for a fun combination.

The use of mythology in the storylines is also varied and interesting. Especially with the series rearing up to its conclusion, there are scenes where I really feel the weight of the history behind some event or some character, which is cool. The worldbuilding–where magic and technology come in opposing waves–makes for some interesting dynamics, because different things work in different waves. What sort of powers people are capable of using, and even whether or not the phones work, depends on whether magic or tech is up.

Another interesting dynamic is the family ties. Kate doesn’t have a lot of family, but she’s got some, and her relationships with those relatives are invariably complicated. Her closest friends have their own family to contend with–though the funniest has to be the Russian pagan priest, whose parents are always fighting, and whose mother chastises him for avoiding it by detailing her 18 hour labor.

The family drama isn’t all fun and games, though. Because the books also delve into the complexity of children engaging with their parents as adults, from a number of different perspectives. Some have been raised by those parents all their lives, and some are only recently rediscovering a relationship they hadn’t been able to have before. And some of them struggle with the different perspectives they have, and with how different they are as people.

In short, the Kate Daniels series is about a badass protecting the city of Atlanta from mythological enemies, and learning to make connections with the people around her–all the while fearing she’ll lose those connections because of the big bad that’s coming for her. It’s well done, filled with memorable characters, and an all-around entertaining read.


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