Title: Burn for Me
Author: Ilona Andrews
Published: October 28, 2014
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.
Don’t you love a good surprise? This book gave me one. Based on the cover and the title, I expected something very typically “romance.” The blurb sounded like something different. When I bit into the story and started chewing, it was a different flavor altogether. This story reads like a crime novel. Nevada Baylor is an average, hardworking girl while also acting as a gritty PI and the head of her badass household. Interested yet? I’ve only just begun.
Characterization and badassery
It’s hard to say who my favorite badass in this story is. Ostensibly, it’s Nevada herself. She’s comfortable being a $30-jeans-and-old-sneakers girl, but she’ll also polish up in an Escada suit if it fits the situation. She knows how to play the game and she’s smart. I love that, in this world of people with special psi/magic abilities, she is both one of those talented people and yet not. She rings true as a caring daughter and sister, as a skilled PI who can go toe-to-toe with opponents physically and mentally, and as a minor magical talent. What Ilona Andrews does particularly well is make Nevada into a very well-rounded, admirable character. Nevada doesn’t rely on her magical talent, she relies on her brains and her grit. She’s not concerned about her hair or her cleavage or finding a man. She does her job as a PI as thoroughly and effectively as any man, and she doesn’t worry about what throwing down with a dangerous dude will do to her nails.
Bottom line: Nevada Baylor, ultimate badass.
But wait, there’s more. Don’t buy yet. See what else you get! Nevada’s mom is a former military sniper. Her grandma is a totally awesome mechanic who spends her time working on armored tanks and giving them cute boy names. She also has an eye for hot bad boys and demands that Nevada document any interactions with such characters. (“Pictures or it didn’t happen!” Frida demands.) So in this one family, we get three, count ‘em, three generations of female badassery. And all of these secondary characters are fully developed, fully actualized, and entirely awesome. Am I happy? Yes, I am!
I see your finger poised, but hang on. I’m still not done. Yes, there is this much badassery in this book and I’m so excited that I just can’t hide it. Let’s talk men. Some of the most badass men I’ve ever read. Sexy-without-being-obnoxious, hot-without-trying, I-can-totally-see-why-she’d-want-him men. You get two to in particular to choose from in this book, and you can pick your favorite. But this is not a romance. Nevada is too dauntless for that kind of crap and is not about to fall into any guy’s arms, even if he can incinerate a whole town or crush it to bits. A badass woman can only be matched by a badass man who deserves her, and good luck to the guy who think he measures up. Burn for Me is the best book I have ever read in this regard. (Make note-I hardly ever use superlatives.) I’m beside myself with admiration for Ilona Andrews’ ability to create chemistry, motivation, and connection, all while preserving both characters’ personas. Absolutely brilliant.
Plot and pacing
In a word, awesome. If I get two words, I’ll add perfect. This book masterfully unspools the worldbuild on an as-needed basis without any info dump or reader confusion. At no point did I heave a sigh and have that feeling that I was sitting at a desk staring at a blackboard so that I could understand the worldbuild enough to move on to the actual story. (I hate that. I really, really hate it.) This is a very difficult feat, but Burn for Me does it (seemingly) effortlessly. The book is all enjoyment, all ease, all page-turning, what-happens-next action.
Seriously. Read this. Then, compare every book you read afterward to it. It’s that good.
Prose and editing
Fantastic. No errors, no awkward phrases. It all goes down smooth and easy. When prose and editing are flawless, you don’t even notice them. All of your attention is on the characters and the story. This book nailed it.
Where does Burn for Me get off, being this funny? It shouldn’t be. The grim dauntlessness of the characters and the high stakes should make this a pretty serious book. And it is. But it’s also hilarious. Nevada, her family, and Mad Rogan are so smart and actualized that they are laugh out loud funny. I’ll admit, my sense of humor is quirky and I enjoy the macabre, but I haven’t read anything that tickled my funny bone like this in a very long time.
“Pierce did have devil eyes. Deep and dark, the rick brown of coffee grinds, they were unpredictable and full of crazy.”
“You have a strange look on your face,” he said. ‘I just realized I shouldn’t be in the same vehicle with you. In fact, I shouldn’t have called you in the first place, so I’m trying very hard to rewind time.’ He grinned.”
“I really would like to know,” he said with genuine curiosity. “The next time I kill someone, I’d like to do it in a way that doesn’t freak you out.”
I stayed up late last night to finish reading this book, and I’m cutting into my own work time to post this review. I don’t do that. Plus, I already posted a review today, and I don’t post two reviews in one day. But this review is burning a hole in my head and it would be a crime against book-loving humanity if someone missed out on reading this one. That’s how exceptional it is in the fantasy genre and in fiction as a whole. If I were teaching a class on creating badass heroines within a fantastic story, I would use this book as the textbook. The only negative I can squeeze out is the cover, which does not fit the book at all. Instead of a romance cover, it needs a fantasy cover.