Urban fantasy is having a field day lately. I’ve tried the first of the Mortal Instruments series and was far from impressed, but still wanted to try again before putting the genre (or is it a sub-genre?) in the back burner for the near future.

I was especially attracted to Magic Bites because it’s set in Atlanta (where I lived for a while) and wasn’t disappointed with all the landmark references. Too bad they were all crumbling! You see, in an undefined future, the world of technology we’re enjoying today is slowly giving way to magic. When the lights are on, magic is subdue, but more and more frequently bursts of the supernatural hit the city, making human-made structures collapse.

(It’s a good start – I liked the opposition between science and magic.)

“Normal” people have learned to adapt to this world, including cohabitating with paranormal beings. Against this background, power struggles develop between several organizations of humans and other creatures. From the start you’re thrown into this world without the benefit of a slow intro and you’re hard pressed to keep up and differentiate the Pack, the People, the Guild, the Order and where all the renegades in between.

In the middle of all this there’s Kate Daniels, our heroine. She’s a mercenary without allegiance who enters the game when she’s asked to investigate the murder of her mentor. She also has powers she’s been trying to keep secret for a long time for reasons we never really understand in this first book.

I liked Kate. She’s trying hard not to be the cliché tough-girl-with-a-big-mouth-and-a-dry-sense-of-humor, but it’s not quite working. While on her mission she meets Curran, the leader of the Pack (aka werewolves) and it’s easy to spot the future romantic hero, although their relationship is still very subtle in Magic Bites. Actually, Curran has the potential to make several “best fantasy hero“ lists, as he is, literally, the Alpha Dog. All that power and sensuality shimmering under a restrained personality… This might just be the book all Jacob-shippers were waiting for!

Credible world building – check. Kick-ass heroine – check. Interesting hero – check. Good story flow – check. So why did I only give it 3/5? I blame it on vampire and werewolf fatigue. Add to it a bunch of zombie-like creatures and you’ve lost me. Were vampires and werewolves always bitter enemies or was it something Meyer initiated and is now a given? Lately I’ve been having a hard time not to roll my eyes at any book or movie that follows this formula. Any urban fantasy out there that is re-inventing the wheel?

Bottom line, I won’t actively look for the next one in the series, but I might get it if our paths cross at a second-hand sale.


Other thoughts: Giraffe Days, The Crooked Shelf.