Iron Magic by Ilona Andrews Review | Is it possible to turn an antagonist into a beloved hero?

35126152Iron and Magic
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: The Iron Covenant #1
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Publisher: NYLA
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


No day is ordinary in a world where Technology and Magic compete for supremacy…But no matter which force is winning, in the apocalypse, a sword will always work.

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.


Note: This is a spin-off Urban Fantasy series to Kate Daniels. Reading the previous series is not necessary, but I highly recommend doing so to increase your enjoyment of this book!


The Ilona Andrews team really did not disappoint with Iron and Magic, which follows one of the antagonists in the Kate Daniels series, Hugh d’Ambray. I came in knowing that this was going to be a tough sell. The thing about Hugh’s character in the Kate Daniels series is that he’s written so well as an antagonist. He’s killed beloved characters, imprisoned, and tortured many people and shapeshifters. However, the authors write this redemption book so well, even someone who was side-eyeing the announcement of this book like me fell in love with it. As someone who has been subjugated in a manipulative relationship before, I am very harsh when it comes to redemption arcs. The Andrews team writes Hugh’s with dexterity and care. Many loose strings when it came to his character in the Kate Daniel’s series is wrapped up. The heroine they introduce, Elara, is a force of nature that holds her own against Hugh. All in all, Iron and Magic is another example of the authors’ tactical and heartfelt writing that I have grown to love.

While previous readers of their work are used to the world, the Andrews team still introduces aspects such as when the “magic is down and tech is up,” and vice versa. It’s a dystopian, urban fantasy world where shapeshifters and vampires roam. Hugh himself is cast aside from the wizard Roland, who he had been serving for hundreds of years. In the beginning of the book, we find him destitute and ready to end his life. He’s an alcoholic and lashes out to his loyal military crew. But when they finally persuade him to see reason, he sets out to defend his crew from Nez, one of Roland’s lackies trying to kill him, and aligns himself with the White Warlock, Elara. She has the castle and supplies he needs, while he has the army she needs. Thus begins the basis of the beloved fake marriage trope that I am always, ALWAYS weak for.

“‘The Iron Dogs are more than a job. A brotherhood, you said.’
‘A family, where each of use stands for something greater,’ Lamar said.
‘If you fall, the rest will shield you.’ Bale said.”

Elara is absolutely awesome. Not just “wow, she’s awesome!” but also “awe-inducing.” Her powers are a great mystery to both Hugh and the readers, but we know she’s super strong and this strength is ancient and ominous. She is definitely a heroine that readers will grow to love. She’s snarky and sassy and holds her own up against Hugh. But most of all, she’s loyal and caring. She’ll do anything for her people, and they know it. I love how pragmatic she is about the marriage and how she has no disillusions about Hugh’s character. But she also slowly learns more about him, and that makes her heart open more to him as well. The romance is as sweet as it is prickly. There is excellent banter that we can expect from these writers, but also an underlying current of care throughout the violent threats they give each other. It’s passionate and promiscuous, and I loved every moment of it.

“This wasn’t the way she imagined the day of her wedding. This was some hellish caricature of it.
Tonight she would have to marry that insufferable ass.”

Another thing that the Andrews team writes so well in this story is the explanation behind Hugh’s rationale when he was acting as an antagonist. His actions aren’t immediately forgiven; rather, it’s a tough transition from the glorification he had for Roland to the final realization that the blood and carnage he waged was bred into him for another’s use. I was also impressed by the way the writers closed the doors on the weird sexual tension he had with Kate in previously written books. It was so logical, worked so well within the context of story and character, and gave me another reason to get onboard his redemption. This is the same regarding his other villainous actions regarding other beloved characters.

“It wasn’t the woman he had wanted. It was what she represented. He had wanted her acceptance. He wanted her to admit how good he was…
Validation. So simple.”

This book is probably the ultimate testimony to how amazing this author team’s writing is. Not only are we reading the redemption story of a super well-written antagonist, but readers are actually cheering him on as he makes peace with himself and finds his own ground. I loved Elara’s role in everything, and how her mysterious power makes her an even larger presence. Hugh’s story will gut your heart as you follow how everyone he has ever loved left him, but this fate will change in Iron and Magic. Another thing I always commend the Ilona Andrews team is also how they add diverse characters so seamlessly into the plot. The fighters and characters are always mentioned as POC if there are any, and there’s this sweet girl, Johanna, who uses ASL in this book that the other characters take care in using when she’s in the room. Such an easy thing to add in stories, and so appreciated for marginalized readers.

I loved Iron and Magic, and I highly encourage fans of the Kate Daniels series to pick this one up. You honestly won’t regret it, as many questions are answered and justified, which I highly appreciated. Hugh’s redemption arc is far from over, but this was an excellently-written beginning. I can’t wait for Kate Daniel’s last book, Magic Triumphs, but Hugh and Elara’s story is one that I won’t be missing out on in the future.

CWTW label

heavy brutal violence, blood and gore, explicit sexy times, alcoholism, alcohol withdrawal


Thank you Netgalley and NYLA for the review copy!

4 thoughts on “Iron Magic by Ilona Andrews Review | Is it possible to turn an antagonist into a beloved hero?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s