Fans of the Kate Daniels series have long been familiar with her fellow knight and best friend Andrea Nash. This is the first novel, though, that is told wholly from Andrea’s point of view. I hope it won’t be the last.
Andrea is in a time of transition. She has been kicked out of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid since they found out she has shapeshifter blood. She and best friend Kate are slowly building their new company, Cutting Edge Investigations. But the key word for their business growth is slowly. Andrea is also transitioning from being in an intense relationship with Raphael to doing without him. He got his panties in a twist over how she handled being pulled between the knights and the shapeshifter Pack (she chose the knights, it made him very unhappy.) And she is dealing with having her secret out of the bag. Andrea had always denied her shifter side and embraced only the human part of herself, but now everyone knows what she really is, and she is not quite certain how to handle that. Is it any wonder she wakes up every morning dealing with the after-effects of night mares?
It is almost with relief that she greets the phone call from Jim Black, the Pack’s head of security. He has a job for her – one of their businesses got hit in the evening – a reclamation job that involved the murders of four Pack members. The Pack provided the start up funds for Cutting Edge and is a priority client, so Andrea heads out right away. She is less than thrilled when she realizes that the project is being run by Raphael and that solving this mystery means a lot of face time with him. However, she is determined to get the job done and shine while doing it. A quick survey of the scene shows that the case will be both simple and complicated. The four shifters killed were guarding a safe; obviously they died protecting whatever was in there, even though they didn’t know what it was. Simple. But the shifters were killed by some sort of giant, venomous snake: A creature no one believes to exist. Complicated. To solve this case it will take the help of the Pack, a wizard, and every ounce of fire power she possesses. Fortunately, that’s a lot of fire power.
Fans of the series know that Andrea is something of weapons nut. In this book we get a lot of information on her various toys and how she uses them. Andrea is rarely about brute force and is a lot more interested in the best tool for the job. The authors do a great job of intertwining this fighting style with Andrea’s personality. As a child she experienced a lot of physical abuse. As an adult, she has no problem bringing the pain – she just prefers to do it one step removed from the nasty mess of it. Here, Andrea slowly comes to terms with the fact that as a shifter, she is a weapon. She begins to embrace the boudha part of herself, something she had long denied. The difficult part of this is that she is also a unique type of shifter, a beastkin, for which she faced severe bigotry in her first pack. It takes awhile for her to accept that the huge Atlanta Pack does not have the same opinion of her origins as her abusers did. As Andrea learns to accept her whole self she finds herself becoming a warmer, stronger person. She can have the luxury of loving others since she has finally learned to love herself. Naturally, that makes a big difference to her story arc with Raphael.
The two begin the story several weeks after an argument which has had them in zero contact with each other. Neither feels they were in the wrong, neither makes a first move, and the silence is deafening. As they reconnect due to the crime, Raphael does a few stupid things to make her even angrier. But the new Andrea finds she has what it takes to bring this Alpha to his knees and make him completely hers. At first I feared their relationship was going to be all snarky comments and nasty comebacks, but they settled into a nice niche about halfway through the book which helped a lot. I really like these two as a couple – Raphael, who had a decent family life growing up, brings stability and sweetness to the relationship. He’s a strong warrior but he’s not one of those that feels the need to prove it every five minutes; he is deceptively easy going and laid back most of the time. Andrea is intense but with Raphael she can relax and let her playful side out.
The mystery of the novel is layered and its solution is equally complicated. Of course it involves a lot of heavy fighting, strange magical creatures, dangerous magical shifts, and the appearance of new power players. Somehow the authors always turn these familiar elements into a fascinating new mix. I didn’t even try to guess what would happen next – I let it joyfully unfold before me as I devoured the book page by page.
Kate, Curran, and company are important players in the novel. These don’t feel like “guest appearances” since these characters all have reason to interact with Andrea on a regular basis. We learn some interesting factoids about shifter history and get additional background on some of our ongoing favorite secondary characters. I’m always left a little awed by what these folks can pack into a novel. The world-building is of course superb and explained so naturally that the information gathering happens as easily as breathing.
Fans of the Kate series won’t want to miss this different perspective on her unique world. This works fine as a stand alone novel as well, though if you decide to go back and read the first few be warned that this one contains spoilers for them. For paranormal fans I would call this a must read. You just don’t find many books on the market as good as this one.