Full On Squee: Ilona Andrews

Have I told you lately that I love Ilona Andrews?

There’s so much to love. So much. I can’t even…

 

Okay, so I’m going to nip this in the bud and have one entire post dedicated to Ilona Andrews. Then I can just refer everyone to that and move on.

 

NEW: The Women Know When they Look Hot

You know what trope we really need to murder, bury, pour cement over, and then dig a moat around, fill with oil, and set on fire?

The Heroine Who Isn’t Thrilled About Her Body trope.

I get it.

We were all teenagers once. We all had those hopeful, fearful, overly self-aware feelings of awkwardness towards our changing bodies. Most of us (if not all) still have lingering feelings of inadequacy when it comes to meeting body standards.

But I refuse to believe that I can relate to a woman ONLY if they have body issues. Listen, my life has been defined by body standards far too much ever since I could remember. I am trying to LEAVE THAT BEHIND, okay? There comes a time in your life where you realize you just have to fucking accept what you look like, how your body is configured and interacts with the world. I can’t help but feel that this trope is self-perpetuating. A story about a girl who finds love despite her awkwardness still emphasizes and reinforces the “despite” part of the equation.

Also, it’s internalized misogyny. Girls who are not traditionally attractive (but still in the realm of able bodied and attractive) are pitted against traditionally attractive women. Those rivals are seen as vapid, petty, and cruel. They become two dimensional characters to support the story, yet another sexist portrayal of women.

Despite my political views, I fall for the misfit stories myself. Too tall, short, tan, pale, plain, freckled, red haired, brown haired, curly haired, frizzy haired, wide hipped, slender, curvy, small breasted, large breasted woman has me hooked, just a little bit, though I cringe when it is taken too far.

 

The women in Ilona Andrews books take a much more mature approach to the non-traditional beauty idea. They may not be traditionally sexy, they may not feel comfortable in fancy attire, but they have the ability to look at themselves in the mirror and say, “damn, I look good.”

They don’t wait for a man to comment on their dress while they walk down the stairs. They recognize their less traditional features, but also recognize the beauty in themselves, as they are, no Cinderella makeover necessary.

Thank God someone in literature can handle the way they look.

 

Did you know that…?

Ilona Andrews is Actually a Married Couple

How fucking cute is that?!

I wonder how much of what I like about their writing is because it is two people. Maybe the ideas solidify better because you are forced to talk it out with your cowriter.

Also George Andrews is the first male author I’ve liked since forever.

 

Kick Ass World Building

Imaginative, immersive, fascinating, surprising.

I love that each world they build feels like they fucking own it. You know that feeling when you start reading a new fantasy book or series, and it feels like the author is making it up as it goes along? Some of the physics don’t make sense, the history is iffy, lots of things are trite or boring… That doesn’t happen here.

I love starting an Ilona Andrews knowing that I won’t be constantly fighting the world building. And the sudden prevalence of magic usually has a reason. Urban fantasies sometimes plop down a mystical character for no reason, with the backstory “welp, vampires were always just hidden” and leave it at that.

I mean, that’s fine, most of the time. But man, it feels good to have an interesting backstory.

In the Kate Daniels series, the world is either ruled by magic or technology. We have come too far in technology, that the world has begun to change back to magic. There are waves of magic the wipe out tall buildings, fancy tech, stop cars, create mystical creatures, etc.

The Edge series is about a class of magical people that live in the weird halfway magical world between a fully magical dimension and a fully nonmagical (real life) dimension.

The Innkeeper series is about an inn that serves as a rest stop for interdimensional travellers.

In the Hidden Legacy series, the ruling class is made up of family “houses” that took a magical serum 100 years ago, and have been cultivating their magical genes ever since.

How fucking cool are those?!

I love that magic itself is a character, and it’s a good character! A better character than some of the main characters I’ve read, let me tell ya.

 

Truly Kick Ass Heroines

Don’t you miss the 90’s? I’m not talking about Tamagotchis.

Buffy. Leeloo. Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Carmen Sandiego. Captain Janeway. Pocahontas. Trinity.

So many morrrrrre!

What happened? Argg, I miss those bitches.

I have a theory that women make THE BEST superheroes because only women (in this current day and age in heteronormative culture #patriarchy) can be portrayed as both strong AND vulnerable.

Now that I think of it, maybe 90’s Strong Female Characters were a reaction to the 80’s Arnold Schwarzenegger types. All bulge and brawn and indomitable nature. Who wants to read about about an infallible character?

Bor-ring.

Ilona Andrews female characters are the best of 90’s Strong Female Characters. They are strong physically and mentally, and are tested past their limit every day. They are have some weak spots, some very vulnerable moments. Both strong and vulnerable are not forced.

On top of that, they are sarcastic AF. Very lively personalities.

And who doesn’t love a woman actually, physically kicking ass?

They are not whiners. They have shit to do!

I was a little gay for Cerise in Bayou Moon just for that scene where she is practicing swordplay with her blue lightning sword. Man, excellently written fight scenes.

 

They Have Morals

I don’t know how many times I have silently yelled at the heroines for getting sidetracked by flirting with some goddamn male. You know you have a world to save, right? Like, an actual world. But sure, 7.4 billion people can wait while you play footsie with some dumb vampire. (*ahem* Beautiful Ashes)

Yes, it’s a romance. Yes, there are love scenes. But I start to lose interest in the story when it looks like the romance part is overtaking and impeding all other goals, to the point that I worry about them morally. I mean, at the beginning of a relationship, you can’t even make the argument that you are fighting for your man yet. You don’t even know that dude.

On the other hand, I like it when a character struggles between immediate desires and their long term goals. They think logically, weigh it against their belief system, and choose a plan of action.

Most all female characters in Ilona Andrews books struggle against burgeoning desire for the male protagonist. But they avoid them like the plague. Why? Because they know the price of growing an attachment. They know their limitations when it comes to something casual. Furthermore, they have values that keep them steady: keeping their family safe, saving the world, etc.

I love that they are not just lust, passion and angst personified. They love their friends and family. They value human life. And they will fight to the death for both of them.

 

Families Come in All Shapes and Sizes

First of all, family. <3 <3 <3

They love each other sooo hard!

Secondly, Andrews books are really good about going beyond the family nucleus to show a variety of people in from different ages and backgrounds with lasting friendships.

I’m consistently surprised that the children are interesting, and not just some plot device. Most side characters are interesting, and they feel like they have a purpose and a place in the main character’s lives.

Platonic friendship is valued. Kate and an 18 year old guy werewolf are friends. Kate is friends with an former coworker who is hot, male, and they’ve never had a romantic run in. They are just friends. Friends! Not some weird backup boyfriend at which to cast longing glances. Not some love triangle you know she’s not going to follow through with. Not some sad fuck that is unrequited in love with her, while she leads him on.

JUST.

FRIENDS.

All the alternatives that you see in other novels are great plot devices but ultimately make the protagonist petty and selfish. They are just using these so called friends so that they can add some more drama in my life. I have known some people IRL who use these tactics and let me tell you, it is NOT flattering.

 

Bechdeling the Fuck Out of This Bitch

So much Bechdel Test succeeding! Women are doing shit, planning things, saving the world, kicking ass and taking names. And men are right along there with them doing the same thing. NOT hiding the women away in a corner. NOT objectifying the women. Women can be friends. They don’t see each other as competition (unless for specific reasons). Generations of women come together to save the fucking world. It’s so great!

 

Just a Whole Barrel of Goddamn Fun

So much imagination! Humor! Action! Quippy banter! Fun side characters! Under dogs winning! Sizzling romance! Cool ass powers!

A Kate Daniels book feels more like an episode of your favorite superhero show, rather than a book.

 

And So Much More

I will probably add more as I go.

 

What I’ve read so far, in bold:

KATE DANIELS SERIES

 

ON THE EDGE SERIES

 

INNKEEPER CHRONICLES SERIES

  • 1 Clean Sweep (podcast book!)
  • 2 Sweep in Peace
  • 3 One Fell Sweep

 

HIDDEN LEGACY SERIES:

There are also a few random books and a whole set of books from Curran’s POV under the name George Andrews that I haven’t even touched yet!

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