Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast.
Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she’s trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify.
Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?
As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.”
Hugh and Elara may do both.
Iron and Magic is an urban fantasy with elements of romance set in the same world as Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series. It is a story of redemption and a marriage of convenience with main characters who are not easy; I read this book 2 or 3 times before sitting down to write a review because I couldn’t get enough of it. For those who are not familiar with the Kate Daniels series, Hugh is a character who has done bad things in service to the big bad guy, but who has been exiled and now needs to figure out who he is and what his values are when he’s not serving the big bad guy. A lot of Kate Daniels fans do not like Hugh, but enough of them were interested in Hugh’s story that what started out as an April Fool’s joke turned into this marvelous novel, for which I am very grateful. Because of certain events in this book, it is not required that you read all of the Kate Daniels books, although it does help to know just why Hugh is despised by so many people. Before going any further, I must warn you all that this is a very violent, graphic book; there is a lot of blood and gore and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a steamy read, the sex is explicit. Both Hugh and Elara are intense characters, and Hugh has a lot to deal with, but Andrews manages to fit this in as well as move the book into the overarching plotline of the Kate Daniels world.
This story is told mostly from Hugh’s point of view, but it alternates between his point of view and Elara’s. Elara is the woman he marries; he needs a base for his loyal soldiers and she needs soldiers to defend her castle and people. Neither of them have trustworthy reputations in the public eye, so the best way they can convince everyone else that they are serious about an agreement is by marrying each other. But lest you think that marriage equals instant camaraderie, let me assure you that it does not. Hugh and Elara spend 98% of the book fighting, even when they’re having sex, or when both of them have made mistakes. They acknowledge they have messed up, but not usually to each other. That is primarily what I mean when I say they are not easy characters.
Not only are Hugh and Elara incredibly prickly, they have also made choices that are questionable at best and awful at worst. We don’t see very much of what that means for Elara, except for aspects of her magic, but we do explore the nuances of Hugh’s choices. Some of his previous actions are put into context, but you also realize that Hugh will never make the list for best guy in post-apocalyptic fantasy. In a few instances, his response to people’s outrage (or plain rage) with his methods is to say something along the lines of “You’re still alive.” We also learn more about the world these books are set in, and what that world looks like if you are not Kate Daniels. By the end of book, a couple of things are clear. Hugh values loyalty, and so does Elara, and neither of them is on the side of the big bad guy in the Kate Daniels world. I’m confident that Andrews will work out the romance between these two, but I have no idea what that will look like.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go continue rereading this book and eagerly anticipating the next book in this series.