Magic Burns, by Ilona Andrews, is a fantastic book. I wanted to start off with that, before I start detailing the ways in which I loved this novel. It's the second book in the Kate Daniels series (actually, I don't know if this is the "Kate Daniels series" or what Ilona is calling it, but whatever) and it picks up pretty much where the first one, Magic Bites, left off.
Kate, the liaison between the Mercenary Guild and the Order, is still trying to keep her head down while earning a living as a merc. She's really not successful, not with Curran's ex-girlfriend coming to see her-asking for a favor Kate really doesn't want to give-or when Derek (the werewolf) shows up to hire Kate on behalf of the Pack to retrieve their stolen maps. Taking both jobs, Kate ends up running into a third case when she finds Red, a street kid that had helped her previously, and Julie, young girl with a mysterious power of her own. In an attempt to help Julie find her missing mother, Kate gets sucked into more than she knows... Atlanta is caught in a power flare and it seems that someone is trying to awaken an old god, with Kate caught in the middle of it all.
(here there be spoilers)
OK, so first, I love this novel. We get more of Kate's backstory, including a lightly edited version of how her mother died while fighting her natural father, as well as a bit of insight into Kate's life with the father who raised her. As it turns out, 'Voron,' (meaning Raven) as he was called, was Roland's warlord. He trained Kate at a very early age to be what she was, a weapon. I can't wait to find out more. (Also, do you remember Kate's tattoo, from Magic Bites? It was of a raven, holding a sword, under which was written Gift of the Raven (but in Russian).
As Kate put it, "I'm my father's gift." Then, when asked about the sword the raven was carrying, Kate said, "I never said it was a nice gift.")
We also learn a bit more about the Pack in this novel. We're introduced to the werehyenas, as well as beastkin (remember Corwin? The cat-were? Well, beastkin are a cat-were's (any animal-were, actually) very rare children and they're usually killed on sight.). And, we get quite a bit more of the delicious Kate/Curran interaction. It seems that Curran is really quite serious about Kate and of course she's 1) terrified, 2) pissed, and 3) interested...and all at the same time. Poor girl, really.
As for the story part of Magic Burns, well, again, amazing. We've got a couple different plots running throughout the whole novel; interestingly enough, most of them tie in together. During a job with Jim, an unknown person shoots their target with some rather distinctive arrows. While searching for that person, Kate ends up running into Red, a street kid who had helped her before, and his younger girlfriend, Julie. Owing Red a favor, Kate ends up watching Julie when they're attacked by Bran...the mysterious archer from before. It seems that Bran is the one who stole the Pack's maps and while Kate is able to take them from Bran, he uses his abilities to get them back. And back. (Kate is forced to take a chair to his head.) Along the way, we learn that Bran is in the service of Morrigan, a Celtic goddess. Meanwhile, Julie is searching for her missing mother, a witch (who's coven worshiped Morrigan), while creatures that were thought to be only myths are searching for Julie. (Seems the afore mentioned coven might have screwed things up with their rituals, ending up with them worshiping a different aspect of the Crow than they thought.) Oh, and don't forget that Atlanta is currently in the midst of a power flare; one so powerful that gods and goddess (thought only myths) can manifest. Yeah, you know Kate's thinking that the timing could have been better.
I like the way that Ilona tied together those three plots (Julie, Bran, power flare), making what could have been a jumbled mess in to something that made a great deal of sense. I also liked the way she sprinkled in the bits about Kate's parents and her past, dropping them in to the story. It was a good way to give us more in places that were appropriate (like relating to Julie about not having a mother) while still leaving us wanting a whole lot more.