On the Edge by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ilona Andrews (writing team of Ilona and Gordon) caught and kept my interest when I read Magic Bites. I liked the distinctive voice I saw in that story, one that has stayed true in the subsequent stories that I have read by this team. With On the Edge, they have continued that excellence, providing me with a novel that is multi-faceted, genre-wise and story-wise.
Although I grew up in the Midwest, my roots are Southern, and I do appreciate books set in the South that show the real ways of Southerners. In this case, I saw something very real and almost familiar in Rose, her brothers, grandmother, and friends and neighbors. I smiled when Rose threw the boys in the car and took them to Walmart. Yeah, that's real. Real people do shop there. How many times do you read a book where the characters go to Walmart to buy not the designer shoes, but the ones that look close enough to pass muster? How about a heroine who buys ground beef and adds rice and bread crumbs to stretch it? Yup, that's real alright. How about those moments when you have to stretch your paycheck and hope you have enough money left over the week to buy gas so you can get to work? I've definitely been there. And the love and ties of family, having to work hard all day and get home, take care of your family, go to bed, and get up and do it again. I think a lot of readers can identify with that. So what if Rose is magical, along with everyone in her family? That's a little more on the fantasy part of the scale. But this combination is why urban fantasy is so irresistible to me. The real and the surreal nicely entwined.
The ideas in this story strike me as very unique and different. I liked it a lot, even if some elements was pretty odd, like a reanimated grandfather who likes to eat stray dogs' brains. Or the fact that a lot folks in the Edge community can curse people, or send flashes of powerful energy out of their bodies. And then there is the shapeshifting younger brother of Rose, Jack. The other young brother is a powerful necromancer (hence the zombie granddad). And things get even more interesting when Declan shows up. Rose's powerful flash abilities have made her an asset to Blueblood families who want to integrate her genes into their family lines, one way or the other. She has become wary of men for that reason, since most of her suitors didn't ask nicely. So when too good to be true Declan shows up to claim her and take her back to the Weird, the magical lands that are adjacent to the Edge, she definitely doesn't eagerly go off with him. She makes an oath with the handsome warrior that he can have her if he succeeds in her three challenges. However, they have big problems on their hands, as there are horrible, magical hounds that are devouring Edgers for their magic. And they really want to get their hands on Rose and her family.
I loved Rose. She was a heroine that you could hang with, and that you'd be slightly in awe of, because she knows how to take care of business. She's the type that you tell to do something, and she takes about five minutes or more, and she's back and ready to get the job done. Not the heroine who is infallible and annoyingly perfect. Nope, she's the heroine that you love because she tries so hard, and she has the determination to do what is necessary. I loved Rose's commitment to her brothers, how she raised them from a young age after her mother lost her mind and her father ran off treasure-hunting. Jack and Georgie (her brothers) are adorable and genuine little boys, despite their very unusual abilities. They were sweeties and reminded me of the poem about what boys are made of (you know, snails and puppy dog tails). You could see why Rose loves them, even though being a single mom to her brothers is far from easy.
Declan was a great match for Rose. He was just as determined and capable. He might be a rich princelike guy, but he was down to earth enough that this didn't bother me. And I do like tough, warrior heroes, I won't lie. He took to the kids very quickly, and he treated them like they were his own. He even makes pancakes for them. I liked how he was as much a thinker as a doer, a problem-solver not afraid to get his hands dirty. He was a guy who made a commitment and stood by his word, no matter what. Declan was definitely a knight in shining armor, and I could see why Rose fell in love with him.
William was also adorable. I felt for him, and I will probably end up reading Bayou Moon soon to get more of him. I liked his wildness but also his goodness and how sweet he was with the kids (I am a sucker for that).
On the Edge has its dark, gruesome elements, but I'm okay with that. I like some dark in my fantasy. I loved the juxtaposition of the everyday with the fantastic and surreal. The Andrews have a great way of writing descriptively and setting the scene without overdoing things and info-dumping. I like that the narrative is spare in some places, and the character sketches give you enough to get an idea of the folks in the story, but you can still learn more as you read. There are times you have to figure things out as you go, which is what I prefer, to be honest.
Although I am sure this book wouldn't work for everyone, I had a ball reading it. I liked everything about it. The romance was great, but the fantasy elements were equally important. I'd recommend this to a reader who likes fantasy but wants to try romance, and a reader on the other side of that equation.
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