Ilona Andrews absolutely has a talent for worldbuilding. It’s the greatest strength of Magic Bites, the ability Andrews have to put a new spin on tired tropes.
I loved her treatment of vampires, having them be 1. Evil, nonsparkly monsters and 2. Bloodthirsty brutes controlled by necromancers. She was creative with the shapeshifters as well, having were-rats and were-bears and were-felines along with the wolves. I liked having an intermediate form as well as man and beast, which harkens back to traditional werewolf legends. And I thought the idea of both wereanimals, infected humans, and animal-weres, infected animals, to be borderline genius.
The whole magic/tech situation was really interesting, if not really explained. I’d like to see it affect the main story more, become an important plot point, something like that. The Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid was an interesting concept. All in all, the backdrop to the story is rich and fascinating.
It’s in the substance of the story where Magic Bites falls a little short. For the most part the plot is fine, suspenseful and quick-moving, but nothing that struck me as exceptional. Two issues presented themselves. One, I though the fake-out big bad came out of nowhere. I don’t mind the idea of having a big battle with an enemy who’s not the true enemy, but I had almost no context for her and it felt sort of random.
I also hated the Crest-as-the-Upir thing. It was NOT KATE’S IDEA, and yet she gets the blame (and she blames herself) when Crest turns out to be human. Stupid. Irritating.
Obviously Kate and Curran are being set up to eventually become a couple, but I have to say there were lots of places where Curran really got on my nerves. Maybe the sequels will win me over but every time he did something to redeem himself in my eyes he followed it up with something entirely aggravating. Yes, he’s an alpha, and that’s going to make him behave a certain way. But sometimes I really felt like smacking him.
I’m interested enough to read the sequels, although I much prefer Ilona Andrews’ web serial Clean Sweep to Magic Bites. Just as much inventive worldbuilidng, a much more engaging plot, and a slightly less irritating alpha-male.