Review: Small Magics by Ilona Andrews

Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Title: Small Magics
Author: Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels #.5, 5.3, 5.6
Pages: 159
Published: September 17, 2015
Source: Borrowed - Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

***The stories in this anthology have been previously published***

Now collected for the first time, an irresistible compilation of five previously published stories by the bestselling author of the Kate Daniels series; including Kate’s very first meeting with Saiman, some related adventures, and two unforgettable ‘outside’ excursions.

In this ‘intro’ to the Kate Daniels world, we meet the extremely ‘shifty’ Saiman for the very first time, when Kate takes on the task of serving as his bodyguard to protect him from some very determined—and dangerous—Russian wizards.

RETRIBUTION CLAUSE – Saiman’s cousin, Adam—a frost giant and also an insurance adjuster—and his enigmatic partner, Siroun, set out on an impossible mission to enforce a client’s Retribution Clause; that is, to kill the person who killed her. But is their target even guilty? Magic and mayhem and a little personal chemistry will reveal the truth!

A young adult story about a girl, a pig, some magic, and the worst date ever.

Chad Thurman is a thug, who carries brass knuckles in both pockets and lays magic traps for intruders into "his" neighborhood. The last thing Alena Kornov wants to do is to go on the date with him. But when her family pressures her, she can't say no. Now the ice-cream is absent, the pig is running for its life, and we won't even mention the dead guy...

Grace has always known she wasn’t like everyone else and that her family has magic abilities. After flying to meet the head of Clan Dreoch in order to fulfill her families’ “duties” as servants, Grace finds herself in the middle of a mage clan war…

A short story in the Kate Daniels universe. Kate recruits her teenage ward, Julie, to search out a missing student whose location spell has her hidden somewhere on campus…

How's your public library?

Small Magics is a slim, 150 page ebook that gathers five short stories by husband and wife writing team, Ilona Andrews. It is not, strictly speaking, a collection of their Kate Daniel's series, though it is promoted that way. It sells for $2.99, which would not be unreasonable for the content, however, only Questionable Client, a prequel showing Kate and Saiman's first meeting, features Kate in any real way. QC is available for free on Ilona's website. The book does not feature the Jim/Dali or Andrea/Rafael novellas.

So I ask again, how's your library system?

QC was my least favorite of the stories. It's the second longest, but it can't be more than 30 pages. This leads to a rushed and overstuffed plot about the tree of life, a talking cat, and Saiman being pregnant with an acorn. Saiman's never a nice guy, but the way he interacts with the group he stole the acorn from is just mean. I don't understand why Kate would keep working with him, (and in fact she vows not to.) Kate gets to be badass and destroy a lot of skittering nightmares, but lacks a connection to anyone. I can see why Andrews has published it for free; I don't see anything worth paying for.

I liked the second story, Retribution Clause, a lot more. Saiman's cousin Adam is an insurance adjuster. Because of the magic, that job is a lot more hardcore than in our mundie world. He and his partner are sent out to enact the "retribution clause" in a dead woman's life insurance - they have 24 hours to kill her murderer. I want a spin-off. The romance between Adam the frost giant and his partner Siroun, some kind of fire spirit ninja badass, is everything. I loved the conversation with their boss, that the murderer had hired expensive guards, so don't kill more than 3 or it'll be cost prohibitive to the company. It felt like Kate's world but a totally new experience.

Of Swine and Roses and Grace of Small Magics are set in an entirely different series, the Hidden Legacy world. I don't feel like the book blurb or Ilona's website explains this well, as Kate and Curran are on the cover and Small Magics is filed in the Kate Daniels section of the site. I had no idea until I was halfway through GoSM that this wasn't just all happening during a magic wave. Hidden Legacy is a more standard fantasy. Magic always exists; there are three schools of magic: elemental, mental, and arcane; mages are ranked by power. Strong families of mages are clans, lesser families serve them.

OSaR is a pretty standard fairy tale. Alena's family has suffered some setbacks and she needs to marry into a strong clan for protection. She agrees to go out with Chad Thurman, muscleheaded prince of the community. The date is a disaster and ends with Chad and his cronies trying to kill a piglet. The pig isn't at all what he seems and in the end, Alena gets her HFN (happy for now). It skews much younger than any of Kate's stories and it's short, but it's also a fun trip. Now I'd like to see what Ilona does with a full fairy tale retelling.

GoSM also focuses on a clan, Clan Dreoch. They're one of the twelve main families and the magic rulers of...the world? The US? There's a distinct lack of world building. (The short was published in 2009, HL wasn't picked up as a full series until 2014, so don't give me that, "read the rest of the series" crap.) Grace is a servant of the clan due to a betrayal by her great great great great grandparents. She's recruited to play in the magic Hunger Games. The romance is sexy and I enjoyed the plot, but it's rushed and doesn't stand alone.

I've already reviewed Magic Tests in its original anthology. Short version, four stars because Julie is awesome. Confusing again as we've now switched back to the KD world. I just don't find the book well formatted or edited. The stories are good and well written, but the collection as a whole has flaws.

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