Iron and Magic
By Ilona Andrews
Publisher: NYLA Publishing
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Readers of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series know Hugh D’Ambray as the warlord for her powerful and devious father, Roland. In that role, Hugh hasn’t exactly been a good guy. When Iron and Magic opens, however, he’s a wreck of his former self, cast out by Roland for failing to bring Kate under her father’s power. Without Roland, he has no purpose, and we learn why.
For him, though, there are even worse things than being cast aside. Roland’s necromancers, the controllers of his vampire forces, are killing the Iron Dogs, the military unit Hugh formed and led. The Dogs refused to follow Roland blindly, and he can’t ignore that. They, too, have been cast out and marked for destruction. Four of them come to Hugh to ask him to pull himself together and lead them again.
For the Iron Dogs, Hugh does what he couldn’t do for his own sake alone. He pulls himself out of the gutter. He and his four centurions gather the other Dogs, who’ve lost about a fourth of their number, and forge them into a fighting unit again.
That doesn’t solve their problems, though. Without Roland’s support, they have no source of income and no base, and the leader of his vampire forces is still out to destroy them.
No one wants to do business with them since they often broke agreements on Roland’s orders. Then the centurions discover a settlement in need of protection because Roland wants their land. The settlers have ample food and resources and, perhaps best of all, a castle as a base. The settlers are led by Elara Harper, a magically gifted woman known as the White Warlock. Their group has difficulty finding allies because of something about her magic and because of betrayals of allies and other mysterious events in their past.
Joining forces seems like an obvious move, but no one else will believe either side plans to stick to the alliance because of their past failure to honor alliances. Unless outsiders consider the two groups solidly merged, both will still appear vulnerable. The solution the centurions and Elara’s people devise is a time-honored one, a marriage of convenience between Hugh and Elara.
When the two meet, they take an instant dislike to each other. Both have long been the alphas of their groups, and neither wants to yield control. At bottom, though, each realizes they need each other. They eventually hammer out an agreement and start working together. Hugh believes Roland’s forces will try to take the castle sooner or later, and he immediately begins to bolster the defenses. He also proves surprisingly helpful to Elara in negotiating the sales of the herbal remedies that support the settlement.
Meanwhile, a mysterious force is killing people in surrounding villages and taking the bodies. Hugh and Elara figure out that this is a new breed of enemy but can’t determine why they’re attacking. Facing these and other crises helps forge their two groups into one community and deepens the growing bond between Hugh and Elara.
The attraction between the pair develops slowly and under cover of bickering. When outsiders appear, the two pretend to be deeply in love to sell their alliance. Being seen as a unit opens doors for them, and each time they work together develops the trust and honest communication between them. Neither wants to admit to that trust, though, or to believe in it.
They also have to face repercussions from Hugh’s past actions, especially in regard to the Pack, the shapeshifters of Atlanta in the Kate Daniels series. His reaction to the dark legacy he hadn’t truly faced is emotionally wrenching. Elara’s concern for him, and then her trust that he will protect her people, gradually work their way through his emotional barriers, as his dedication to protecting her settlement erodes hers. When they finally come together, however, neither wants the other to know how much that night means.
This story is set in the world of the Kate Daniels series. The tie-ins to that series are used effectively and serve story purposes other than showcasing familiar characters. There’s also lots of action/adventure and enough explanation of the world to keep new readers from feeling lost.
The exploration of Hugh’s relationship with Kate, which he’d never really thought much about, adds depth to his character. Elara’s insights about that relationship also develop her character and Hugh’s unacknowledged trust in her. When the final battle comes, Hugh faces a test that has been building throughout the story, and Elara risks everything for his sake. The speech she gives before she does so reveals keen insight into his soul and is emotionally touching. It all leads to a satisfying ending even though there are unanswered story questions that promise more to come.
Iron and Magic is a perfect blend of fantasy adventure and paranormal/fantasy romance. It successfully treads the line between building the hero and heroine’s relationship and leaving room for it to grow in subsequent books. This is a great launch for a new series.