Best of 2014: Burn For Me by Ilona Andrews

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So it’s the end of 2014, and in that spirit, I’ve decided to post about my 10 favorite books of the year. Here are the caveats:

–Only books published in 2014 were considered. (I read some AWESOME books in 2014, but they weren’t published this year, so I didn’t consider them for this list.)

–I am arranging the books alphabetically by author. (Sorting them beyond the top 10 would just be too complicated for me.)

–This is a completely subjective list. I have not read every book published this year, not by a long shot, and I just picked the top 10 based on the books I liked the best, the ones that really stuck with me. I am always looking for suggestions for more books I might enjoy.

–I’ll post another entry every few days until I get the top 10.

So for my first entry: Burn For Me by Ilona Andrews.

The blurb:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand-new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire . . .

Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

What I loved about this book: Ilona Andrews (the pseudonym of a husband-and-wife writing team Ilona and Gordon) is/are one of the best fantasy writers out there. Period. If they ever got divorced, it would be a huge loss to the speculative fiction world.

Burn For Me is the start of a new series. One of Andrews’ strengths is world building, and they did not fail us here. The ability to use magic has created a caste system, and the country is dominated by powerful magical houses. Nevada is not one of these houses. Her family barely scrapes by on the revenues from her private detective work. But she has a powerful and rare gift—the ability to distinguish truth from lies—that she keeps hidden from everyone except those closest to her.

The book reminded me a bit of one of Andrews’ earlier words, Bayou Moon, in that Nevada is surrounded by a strong, supportive, colorful family. As such, Nevada, unlike many other heroines in the urban fantasy genre, has a profound sense of responsibility and family devotion, and she has a strong support network at her back.

Rogan is a tougher nut to crack. He’s abrasive, at times cruel, and frequently acts like a jackass. But there are glimmers to him that make you think that maybe he’s not as “mad” as he pretends to be. He’s everything you know you shouldn’t want in a boyfriend—but damn, he’s a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, Ilona Andrews is one of the few writers who can make the villain—a pyrokinetic named Adam Pierce—almost as compelling as the hero. Andrews posted a blog entry several days after the release of the book asking readers whether they thought he could be redeemed. The discussion became very heated, no pun intended. How many other modern writers do you know who can inspire that much passion over the bad guy?

Even though the book has been marketed as a romance, it reads more like an urban fantasy. The romantic relationship here is more prominent than it is in Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, but it is definitely a slow burn, and it’s not the only thing going on here.

Bottom line: If you like complex world-building, intelligent heroines, badass but also possibly wounded heroes, and edge-of-your-seat fantasy stories, this one is for you. I have never picked up an Ilona Andrews book and been disappointed. This year, with both the release of Burn For Me and Magic Breaks, their seventh Kate Daniels novel, their awesomeness streak has continued.

Stay tuned for the rest of the top 10!

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