This series has rebooted with a vengeance. The game changed in "Magic Shifts" with Kate and Curran stabilising their relationship, leaving the Pack and building a new power base of Mercs and former pack members and with the conflict between Kate and Roland, her I-WILL-dominate-the-world father, now out in the open.
"Magic Binds" uses this new situation to put Kate under intense pressure and see what happens.
Her father is the first pressure source. Now that the confrontation between him and Kate is no longer covert, it has become much more intense, partly because Kate is becoming more and more like her father. They are both powerful and territorial and seem incapable of not pushing one another. Being who they are, each "push" costs people their lives. Roland's public demonstrations of how ruthless, powerful and cruel he is are more than just vanity. They're designed to push/tempt Kate to retaliate in kind. The question as to whether Kate's true nature is to give herself up to her power and become more like her father is central to the tension of the story.
The second pressure source on Kate is the Oracle's visions. These are cleverly conceived not as prophecies but as images of pivotal points where Kate's decisions will change her future. That the pivot points all seem to lead to Kate choosing between Curran's death or the death of their as-yet-unborn son drives Kate's aggression but also makes her desperate to find a third way.
There's more to this book than a power puzzle to be solved with ingenious strategies. I was impressed by how well characters from earlier books are incorporated into the story in ways that develop them as people and also change the meanings of earlier events. It was fascinating to see the Pack from the outside again and to understand just how deeply the Order hates Kate and to see how Curran and Kate bind their new team together. Both Barabas and Christopher develop in surprising ways and the emergence of a previously unknown cult, built by Roland to assassinate Kate, is cleverly linked to earlier events as well as giving Kate a reality check.
There's some interesting and emotionally intense stuff going on between Kate, her adopted daughter and her recently deceased aunt (yeah - that takes some explaining but it works).
As always, Iona Andrews excels at both humour and at big battle scenes. The book kicks off with an almost slapstick scene in which Curran and Kate ask her Priest of Death cousin to marry them and wit, banter and absurd juxtapositions provide light relief throughout. When the battle finally arrives it is bloody, emotionally charged and intense.
This is an extremely accomplished urban fantasy. I'm looking forward to the next one.