Title: On the Edge
Author: Ilona Andrews
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: September 2009
Paperback: 336 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in Ilona Andrews’s new The Edge series.
How did I get this book: Review Copy (from the Publisher)
Why did I read this book: I am a big fan Ilona Andrews fan. Her Kate Daniels series keeps getting better with each volume – in fact, this year’s Magic Strikes is shortlisted as one of my top 10 favorite reads of 2009.
Summary: (from amazon.com)
The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale.
The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny.
Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.
Rose Drayton lives in a strange realm called the Edge – a sliver of land between the familiar world of the Broken (a mundane world where electricity, McDonald’s and WalMarts are the norm) and the Weird (where magic and castles reign). Able to withstand both the loss of magic that the Broken inflicts on anyone that crosses its border, but also able to use magic in the realm of the Weird, “Edgers” like Rose and her family have freedom of mobility, but live a cutthroat existence. Ever since their parents gave up on the family, Rose has protected and looked after her two younger half-brothers, working in the Broken for minimum wage as a cleaning lady, and warding the house in the Edge against magical threats. Things are made more complicated by Rose’s magical ability, for she is able to “flash” white, powerfully and precisely – a degree of magic that only bluebloods from the Weird should be able to produce. While Rose’s magic means she can protect her brothers and grandmother, it also makes her a target for bluebloods looking for a broodmare to produce powerful children, and corrupt neighbors who plan on selling her to the highest bidder. When a strange, powerful, undeniably blueblooded man named Declan shows up at Rose’s home, Rose is forced to submit to his proposition: she will give him three challenges, and if he can emerge victorious all three times, she will be his. Knowing that Declan is more powerful and dangerous than even Rose can hold off, she must agree to give herself and her family a chance to beat him. But even as Rose’s life is slipping into chaos, more trouble is brewing in the Edge – some ominous new form of magic is appearing, and devouring Rose’s neighbors whole, and it seems to be attracted to her.
On the Edge marks Illona Andrews’s departure from the Magic/Tech world of Kate Daniels, and embarks into new territory. It’s surprisingly difficult to classify On the Edge – on the one hand, the book has undeniably strong contemporary/urban fantasy elements, but on the the other the relationship between Rose and Declan really drives this novel in the manner of a paranormal romance (much more so than the relationship between Kate and Curran is featured in her other series). Regardless of label, On the Edge is simply a damn good story. Ms. Andrews made her way onto my autobuy list of authors with Magic Strikes, and On the Edge certainly did not disappoint.
The fantasy elements, with the creation of the worlds of the Weird, the Edge and the Broken are fabulous concepts that are richly detailed and well realized. For example, at one point in the novel, we learn that these worlds coexist on parallel dimensions, with corresponding geographies but alternate histories. Little details like that make me happy as a reader – Ms. Andrews has a knack for creating worlds that make sense, with power hierarchies firmly in place, histories and politics that ring true. It’s one of the things that makes her as successful and effective as she is as an author. I loved the idea of “flashing” magic, curses and wards, as well as the different strange magics of changelings. There’s a lot of variation in Rose’s world of the Edge, and it feels completely fresh and interesting (no rehash of werewolves, vampires, or mystical super mages here, thank goodness!). Even more impressive, however, is Ms. Andrews’s appreciation of the laws of the universe: for every action, there is a reaction; for every use of power, there is a consequence. This is demonstrated adroitly throughout the novel, most effectively with Georgie, Rose’s younger brother with his big heart and his ability to resurrect dead creatures.
In terms of characters, again Ms. Andrews shines. Rose is a heroine worth rooting for, and her need to protect her younger brothers, her concern for her family, and even her compassion for those neighbors who would have left her for dead are impressive and make her a very sympathetic, genuinely likable character. Declan is an alpha-type hero character that I’m certain will have some female fans swooning – he’s (of course) gorgeous and powerful and undeniably arrogant, but he’s also a guy with an agenda. He’s a manipulator, but not in a cold or cruel way. Rather, he does what he needs to in order to get the job done, even if that means misleading Rose. Though Declan’s motives may seem hazy initially, things gradually make sense as the novel progresses, as do his motivations for his attachment to Rose and her family. And, of course, the relationship between Rose and Declan is the stuff of paranormal romance gold. They’re both characters that aren’t looking for love, but find it anyways (despite many hurdles and mistrust in the way). Even little ol’ jaded me found myself smiling by the end of the novel, as these two characters fall in love with each other, despite themselves.
I should also mention that the secondary characters, particularly Rose’s younger brothers Jack and Georgie, are wonderful additions. Jack, a changeling who was born as a kitten who then shifted into a human, is a strange character with a different view of the world, and Ms. Andrews captures this alien-ness very well. Georgie, Jack’s older half-brother, has the gifts of necromancy, but also the curse of a large and generous heart. His inability to let things die causes a whole other realm of problems, as some of his own life force must be sacrificed each time he resurrects something. Both characters, and their relationships with each other and with Rose and Declan, are touching, and add an extra dimension of goodness to On the Edge.
Though I did love the characters and the world building elements of the book, there were some minor detractors from the novel. In particular, the central thesis for the book for the romance between Rose and Declan is based on a premise that really makes no sense (at least initially it makes no sense, for about the first half of the book). The question that kept ringing in my head was: WHY is Declan so interested in Rose, especially if he’s some super hot super magic noble blueblood? The whole concept of the three challenges before Declan can claim Rose also seems a little cheesy. As the novel progresses and motivations are revealed, I do understand, logically, what Ms. Andrews tries to accomplish, but it doesn’t change the fact that the romantic premise seems more than a little silly and forced. Also, as a fan of the Kate Daniels books, I was a little disappointed that Rose was another SuperPowered character. Rose is written very well, that much is undeniable, but I would like to see how Ms. Andrews deals with a character that isn’t supremely, advantageously powered over her peers. Also, the antagonist element, with the villain being truly EEEEVIL was similarly cheesy. There were some cringe-worthy, repetitive lines about ‘i will enjoy slurping the flesh from your bones! [insert evil cackle]’ that didn’t quite cut it for me. Finally, everything in On the Edge seemed to wrap up a little too nice and tidy for me – but that’s just a matter of personal taste.
Overall, these weaknesses were minor compared to the strengths of the novel, and I found myself highly enjoying On the Edge. I’ll definitely be back to the world of the Edge, very soon.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
“Rosie!” Grandpa’s bellow shook the foundation of the house.
“Why me?” Rose wiped the dish soap suds from her hands with a kitchen towel, swiped the crossbow from the hook, and stomped onto the porch.
She kicked the screen door open. He towered in the yard, a huge shaggy bear of a man, deranged eyes opened wide, tangled beard caked with blood and quivering greyish shreds. She leveled the crossbow at him. Drunk as hell again.
“What is it?”
“I want to go to the pub. I want a pint.” His voice slipped into a whine. “Gimme some money!”
He hissed at her, swaying unsteadily on his feet. “Rosie! This is your last chance to give me a dollar!”
She sighed and shot him. The bolt bit between the eyes and Grandpa toppled onto his back like a log. His legs drummed the ground.
Rosie rested the butt of her crossbow on her hip. “All right, come out.”
The two boys slipped from behind the huge oak spreading its branches over the yard. Both were filthy with reddish mud, sap, and some other unidentifiable substances an eight and a ten year old could find in the Wood. A jagged scratch decorated Georgie’s neck and brown pine straw stuck out of his blond hair. Red welts marked the skin between Jack’s knuckles. He saw her looking at his hands. His eyes got big, amber irises flashing yellow, and he hid his fists behind his back.
“How many times do I have to say it: don’t touch the ward stones. Look at Grandpa Cletus! He’s been eating dog brains again, and now he’s drunk. It will take me half an hour to hose him off.”
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: I’m really not crazy about this cover. At all. BUT I think it’s a good move to reach out to a more romance-centric crowd, since On the Edge does manage to straddle the fantasy/paranormal romance category nicely. What about you? Any thoughts?
Verdict: On the Edge is an intoxicating blend of contemporary fantasy and paranormal romance, sure to please Ms. Andrews’s existing fans, and new fans alike. Rose and Declan are not to be missed – definitely recommended.
Rating: 7 Very Good
Reading Next: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson