Ilona Andrews is a pen-name for a husband and wife team who write a series of urban fantasy novels set here in Atlanta. I’ve mentioned their work in passing before (Kate Daniels is just one of the strong female characters they’ve co-created).
How I found them
I actually read the series short story prequel Questionable Client, and had to get a hold of the books as a result. I find a lot of new authors via short story collections. I like the bite-sized sampling of short stories, and it requires less commitment than a full novel.
In addition to the short story, I know my mom has recommended these books. I know she’s read them and enjoyed them. I also know that the “You might also like” recommendation engine popped up a few of these works from time to time.
Even I can notice patterns this obvious. I snagged book one of the series (Magic Bites, in case you’re interested), and was instantly hooked.
Why I love reading their work
My To-be-read shelves are full – full – of the first books of series. I can only recall two of these first-books where I scrambled to get the rest as quickly as possible. The Kate Daniels series was one of those. (The other was Sanderson’s Mistborn). Generally speaking, I put down book one and add the remaining books to my wishlist. A passive sort of “Yeah, I’ll get around to reading that some more” attitude. This series? This series I HAD to read more. This is one of the few series of books that I’m caught up with to the point of watching publishing dates.
Why do I love it so? Kate herself is one part of it. I like the characters overall. I get them. Their motivations and complications make sense to me. The characters are real and sane and coping with a crazy world. I love the alternate reality that Andrews has created – how magic and technology intertwine and break one another. I like her twists on vampires, and her twists on magic. As the series progresses and the reader learns more about Kate and her past, I love the twists.
What I learn about writing from reading their books
On a surface level, these books are just fun romps. They are a little romantic, a lot of action, some sword/gun/magic fighting and a kick-ass heroine. But as a reader of the series, I can see how planning and attention to detail was woven into the entire story arc. The authors know exactly where Kate is headed. They know her fate. The reader glimpses this, but doesn’t know everything.
I think their true mastery is in foreshadowing. They give just enough hint and information to keep the reader guessing, but not so much that anything is predictable. The questions created by the foreshadowing propel the reader forward, hurtling you from one book into the next. The the reveals are twisty enough to make your eyes wide and your mouth drop open, but not so twisty as to be illogical. I think that’s the key as well. The twists make sense, the foreshadowing leads somewhere amazingly cool.
This is the kind of stuff I love to read. It’s what I hope to be able to do in my writing.