Sometimes, if you're very lucky, when you persist with a series, the author rewards you with a book that is even better than you expected it to be. For me, "Magic Rises" does that.
When I was only a quarter of the way through, I was going, "Wow, it's like the whole thing moved to Blu-Ray with a digitally re-mastered sound track."
Several things in the book worked well for me.
The Kate/Curran relationship has stablised in a believable way (I hate series that keep on and on with the will they? won't they? thing).
The stability between Kate and Curran leads to an examination of the nature of Kate's relationship with the Pack. How far can a non-shapershifter, no matter how powerful, truly be accepted by the Pack?
Answering this question is made much more interesting and more urgent by the fact that Curren, Kate and a small part of the Pack have accepted an assignment on the Black Sea guarding a pregnant werewolf who is under threat from three shapeshifter clans, including her own. This takes the Pack off their home turf and gives them common enemies (basically any one who isn't Pack).
It turns out that the Pack's selection for the Black Sea assignment is part of plot that is related to Kate and the people who hunt her on behalf of her father. This was a neat way of carrying on the story arc while keeping it fresh.
Yet the bits I enjoyed most weren't plot-related. Ilona Andrews excels at two things: pulling at my emotions with scenes like the one where two young shapeshifter girls go loup and are threatened with execution and combat scenes, like the one where Kate has to deal with two huge wild beasts charging at her, when she is armed only with her swords.
There scenes sing. They are vivid and full of life and make the books worth reading.
My only criticism is that the final conflict went on longer than I thought it needed to and the ending itself felt a bit too blockbuster-let's-blow-everything-up for me.
"Magic Rises" was a fun read that has left me hungry for the next book in the series.