Absolutely ages ago—2014 to be precise—the husband and wife writing team that publishes the bestselling Kate Daniels series under the name Ilona Andrews dropped a new book set in a new world, completely removed from their other ongoing series. That novel was Burn for Me, the first in what they were calling the Hidden Legacy.
I’m always excited for a new Andrews novel, but one set in a new world was doubly exciting. Their other series—which also include The Edge and Innkeeper Chronicles—are at least three novels deep at this point, if not wrapped up entirely. Slipping back into an ongoing series is like a comfortable evening at home, but sometimes you want to go out for a night on the town. Oh baby, what a night out Burn for Me turned out to be.
And then, for years: no new books! George Martin fans will certainly scoff, but it’s been three whole years since the first Hidden Legacy novel, and I was more than ready for the next. So I was well pleased to learn that the second and third books in the planned trilogy, White Hot and Wildfire, were going to be released this year, just a few months apart.
Andrews has always gone in for twisty and ranging plots, and these novels are no different: in addition to the proximal event that sets off the action of the individual novels, there’s also a slow burn of family secrets, romantic relationships, and a complicated mythology going on in the background. Though they’re action-driven and romping fun to read, you must pay attention, because “that dude you were introduced to that one time” is definitely on the quiz.
The Hidden Legacy is not dissimilar in tone from Andrews’ other novels. It is set in an alternative present, one where, about a century and a half ago, scientists developed something called the Osiris serum, an elixir which activated magical abilities in its users. It was taken by rich people and aristocrats to consolidate their power; it was given to soldiers for a military edge; in short, this serum drastically changed the socio-political landscape very rapidly.
The serum was locked down, but it was too late: the propensity toward magic use ended up being hereditary. In the time since, those powers have strengthened and settled into Houses, its Prime-level magic users and their vassals occupying a separate and decidedly cutthroat legal and social structure. Andrews excels at these modern-day-with-a-twist settings, where Instagramed selfies and levitating pyro-mages can both exist quite happily. Like the world of Kate Daniels, science and magic exist together here; unlike Kate’s world, they’re stacked up on one another instead of discrete.
It is in this milieu that we are introduced to Nevada Baylor and her large family. Though only 25, Nevada inherited the family business, a detective agency located in Houston, after cancer killed her father. The medical debt associated with his death has put the family on hard times: they live and work in a partially-converted warehouse that also serves at their offices. Two younger sisters and two younger cousins are in school, her mother is disabled, and her grandmother is close to retirement age. They all pitch in when and how they can, but the responsibility for the family largely falls on Nevada.
Burn for Me opens with an intractable, impossible case that Nevada cannot refuse—it is pushed on her by the magical Prime who holds her mortgage—and which throws her into the dangerous otherworld of Houses and Primes, intrigue and magic.
The first novel introduces the players. There’s Nevada’s irascible family, most of whom manifest magical gifts both dangerous and secret. Nevada herself is a truthseeker, with the ability to unerringly tell truth from lies, a talent she keeps closely under wraps.
The abilities of her sisters and cousins manifest as the series goes on, and some are queasy talents to have. Indeed, it’s a running theme, the tension between talent and character: if you’re magically suited to be the best sniper, must you live a life of killing, because you’re good at it? There’s Connor “Mad” Rogan, a Prime whose military service left him psychologically damaged and possibly without conscience. Augustine Montgomery owns the Baylor detective agency, and as the head of his House, can both help and hurt Nevada’s family, depending on their usefulness to him.
The later novels keep folding in new and compelling characters, from Cornelius Harrison, an animal mage and the Baylors’ first case in White Hot, to the mysterious Caesar, a shadowy character who has been working towards a fairly brutal shakeup of the House system. Like any good detective yarn, the series wades through dozens of red herrings and ties up disparate threads that run through all levels of society and several generations.
Nevada and Connor enact an uncomfortable and compelling romance, hemmed in by both their responsibilities and their personalities in a way that makes a true détente seem nigh on impossible, but all the more yearning due to its impossibility. Sins of the father, both literal and figurative, come to light, which force our protagonists to reorder everything they know.
The Hidden Legacy has pretty much everything you could hope for in an Ilona Andrews series, which is to say: brusque and brutal action, twisty plots, layered main characters, well-rounded secondary characters, and just the very coolest world to play around in. Though the primary arc is satisfactorily wrapped at the end of Wildfire, there’s more than enough room for this series to continue. Cross your fingers for another book—or two!—in a few years.