This urban fantasy series has a strong following and is often listed among the best UF series. It is set in an alternate universe Atlanta after magic has come back to the world. Magic seems to be stronger than technology and so many gadgets are now powered by magic.

Kate Daniels is a magic-user and a mercenary who works for the Mercenary Guild. When her guardian Greg is murdered, she decides to find out who was behind it. Greg was a knight-protector in the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, which means that he was both a very powerful magic-user and warrior, and had also a lot of political power. His murder is therefore a complicate matter. Much to Kate’s surprise, the Order agrees to let her investigate; they even deputize her for a brief time which gives her a little bit of clout with the law. However, Kate realizes that the Order is, of course, using her as the visible investigator while the real detecting is happening elsewhere.

Greg’s body was found together with a dead vampire and with possible shape shifter hairs which would indicate both of the powerful factions are involved somehow. Kate doesn’t care for the shape shifters and actively loathes the People who deal with necromancy and the undead. But now she has to deal with them. At the same time, she meets a cute doctor and tries to go on a date with him.

Kate herself is pretty standard UF heroine: a loner who speaks first and thinks second. She’s no newcomer to the magic world, though. She knows some pretty powerful magic at the start of the story and quickly finds out more. She’s stubborn but also very loyal to the people she respects. She has a magical scimitar called Slayer which is eager to kill the undead.

The magic seems to mostly consist of knowing words in the magical language and speaking them. For example “obey” or “protect”. The power of the words seems to come from the speaker and depend on how much inborn magic she or he has. Most of the magic is used in warding spells and animating the undead instead of fireballs. However, later in the book there’s a reference to an older form on magic. The magic isn’t really explained much except for: ”Magic could not be measured and explained in scientific terms, for magic grew through destroying the very natural principles that made science as people knew it possible.”

Most people seem to know that magic exists which isn’t surprising because magic affect a lot in every person’s life (at least in Atlanta). When a magic fluctuation hits, magic falls and when a magic wave hits, technology fails. While many people still use cars, horses are also popular. Also, some modern tech has been rebuilt using magic such as lamps which are now feylamps which give off blue light.

The supernatural people have several factions: the shape shifters have the Pack which is ruled by the Beast Lord but seems to have clans according to the animal they change into: Wolf Clan, Rat Clan, Hyena Clan, etc. The Order is trying it’s best to protect the ordinary humans. The People are humans who are trying the best (and succeeding) in making money through necromancy.

I really like the vampires in the book: they are mindless undead. A human navigator can control one, look out of its eyes and move it where he or she wants to. All of the navigators work for the People.

I was a bit frustrated by the lack of back story. There’s no explanation on how or why magic had come back to the world or what magic fluctuations were. The book focuses on the story and lets the background be in the background. However, apparently these will be explained in the second book.

The rest of the cast were appropriate but not really memorable. The one exception was the information broker Saiman who is also a shape changer but he can change into any shape.

Overall: a solid book but not spectacular. However, it’s one of the few UF available on audio so I might continue with it.