An Introduction to the World of Kate Daniels for New Readers

The Kate Daniels series is set to come to its epic conclusion in September.

It’s the end of an era.

Since 2007, over the course of ten core books, writing team Ilona and Gordon Andrews (writing as Ilona Andrews) has treated readers to the delights and dangers of a post-Magipocalypse Atlanta. What began as a couple of episodic novels about a down-on-her-luck merc evolved into a story with a far larger arc, one that is about to culminate in a battle between a leveled-up Kate Daniels and the greatest power—and evil—in the world.

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The Kate Daniels series has more snarky humor than you can shake a stick at, shapeshifters with plenty of sex appeal (not to mention loyalty and honor), and so much real-world mythology packed in the Andrews team could teach a course. The overall effect has had these books as staples of the New York Times bestseller lists upon their respective releases.

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The final book in the main series, Magic Triumphs, releases on August 28, 2018. If you’ve read the series, be sure to check out our review. But, if you have yet to pick up these books and are daunted by the size of the series, we’re here to make it a little easier to slip into the world. Once you start, you’ll want to stick around…

The premise of Kate Daniels’ world? Technology and magic can coexist in balance, but they go through cycles. Too much magic? The magic crashes and gives technology a chance to rise. Too much technology? Magic rears its head and starts eating skyscrapers.

In the time of Kate Daniels, technology ruled the world, and magic decided it needed a turn to come back, leaving the world in flux: sometimes, magic has the upper hand, in what’s called a magic wave. But then the magic fades, and tech returns. Cars run, telephones work, and even computers manage to hang onto their files. But when magic reasserts itself, people have to get by in cars that have been converted to start with chanting and run on magically fueled water—or better, trust their horses to get them where they need to go. Guns may work during tech, but if you’re not sure whether the tech will hold, it’s best to rely on a trusty sword.

As the series begins, Kate Daniels works for the Mercenary Guild. The father who raised her is dead, and she discovers that her guardian has been murdered. There’s no chance she won’t get in on the action, so she turns to the Order of Merciful Aid, the organization for which her guardian worked, to get involved in the investigation. Since Kate’s best techniques for getting information involve making herself enough of a nuisance that the guilty parties try to have her killed, she expects to be turned down.

But when the Order offers her the opportunity to find out what happened, she leaps on it, despite her problems with the Order. Technically a branch of law enforcement, the Order helps people who can’t afford the Mercenary Guild’s rates, but whose problems aren’t enough to get the attention of the Paranormal Affairs Division (PAD) of the regular police force. But the Order solves problems their own way, and what they view as mercy isn’t always what the people they’re helping find merciful.

The investigation puts her in the path of the Pack—shapeshifters ruled by the Beast Lord, Curran Lennart, an incredibly powerful lion shifter—and the People, necromancers who pilot undead, controlling the blood-thirsty cravings of vampires by riding in their brains and directing their actions. With the secrets she’s keeping, she’d rather steer clear of both, but to solve the murder, it’s just not an option.

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And to continue with a series, especially one where she shares a strong attraction with Curran, she can’t avoid them either. They’re the world shapers—and Kate herself soon becomes a force to be reckoned with.

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For myth nerds, there is a huge payoff in each book. While there’s plenty of invention here, the Andrews stuff each novel full of references to real-world mythology and folklore. “We were both avid readers as children, mythology and fantasy being among our favorites,” Gordon explained in an interview with USA Today. “It seemed natural for us to include these myths in the stories.”

Readers of the series encounter creatures from Greek, Celtic, Slavic, Egyptian, and a host of other mythologies. Kate herself is well-versed in fantastic beasts and how to kill them, and she usually ends up explaining the consequences of particular creatures and beliefs to those around her, making it easy for readers who aren’t familiar with the stories to keep up. For readers who already love their mythology, they know from the first mention of Morrigan that things are not going to go well.

Fans have long known they can turn to the Ilona Andrews website for extras, because every world has stories that don’t get told in the main arc. Starting with posts on their blog, the pair rewrote several scenes from the early novels from the point of view of Curran, giving them away to their readers for free. When readers fell in love with Andrea, Kate’s gun-toting friend at the Order, and the dashing werehyena who is determined to win her heart, they were rewarded with a whole novel featuring the pair, in which they have to save Atlanta while Kate and Curran are on a different mission. Several short stories, novellas, and side-novels have been published to open the door to alternate points of view, different voices, and different adventures. This is a storytelling world that rewards its readers’ engagement.

If you start reading and decide you want everything there is to read, the books and extras are helpfully compiled in chronological order on the authors’ website. And despite the end of the full Kate Daniels story arc, readers have been promised that, in addition to Andrews’ other series, there’s at least one more Post-Shift novel to come.

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It can be hard to reach the end of a series, even when you know that the characters may continue to appear in the future, but it’s also a comfort, because it means that all those loose ends that promised resolution truly to get resolved. But while readers who have spent over a decade with these characters may be sad to see the end, readers just picking up the series now can be assured that all the hints and secrets introduced early on in the series do come into play—and reach a triumphant conclusion. Whether you’re relying on a tech car, a magic converted SUV, or a trusty and unflappable horse, you’re in for a heck of a ride.

Read the first book in the Kate Daniels series: Magic Bites. Or: Check out our review of the last book in the series: Magic Triumphs.

Alana Joli Abbott writes about books for Den of Geek. Read more of her work here.