This latest entry in the Kate Daniels series is about a terrorist organization (*sigh*). That's far and away the weakest part of the book, because the terrorists are very clearly depicted as completely irrational and cartoonishly evil as individuals and as a group.
Many threads continue from earlier entries in the series, so starting with this book is probably not a good plan. There are no major encounters associated with Roland (Kate's father) and his minions in this book, altho there's a little note at the end from Hugh and there is progress on that arc in terms of Kate understanding more about how her magic works. Julie, Kate's ward, runs away from school for the last time; the school doesn't want her back and Julie doesn't want to go back. The plan is for Julie to live at the Keep and attend school in the city; the idea is that the Pack can probably keep her safe.
Kate's business is going great in terms of new employees (Andrea shows up after being retired from the Order against her will); less well in terms of actually having customers. When the Red Guard calls asking her to find a missing guy and his missing magical cylinder, she's awful suspicious of the job but takes it anyway. On the way back from checking out the crime scene, Kate and Andrea run into Shane from the Order. As their investigation proceeds, they piece together an operation called the Lighthouse Keepers, terrorist organization with sleeper cells that intends to use the magical cylinder as a sort of neutron magic bomb: kill off everyone with any magic within a certain radius by sucking all the magic out and concentrating it in the cylinder. The Lighthouse Keepers want the world of Tech to be full time, which the cylinder very obviously will NOT get them, given the way it works, except maybe as a sort of island. It's a big hole, but nowhere near as problematic as the way the Lighthouse Keepers are depicted in general: cartoonishly evil.
The supes do figure it out in time, and work out their differences at least long enough to go stomp on the anti-magic crowd. This is yet another book in which Torture Works quickly, which is always annoying. I mean, I love violence (I'm not kidding -- why else would I read this kind of blood-porn?), but don't ask me to believe in the impossible. As noted in the entry about the HIV cure (<-- not fiction), there is a thread developing Kate's magic in which Julie -- infected with Lyc-V and guaranteed to go loup -- is saved by Kate doing a blood magic ritual that involves adding the vampire virus to Julie's blood and then cleansing the blood and putting it back in her. It's a clear parallel to Timothy Brown (and Ilona Gordon, half the writing team, has a biochemistry degree) and probably intentional.
Overall, however, the story continues to be about Kate's personal development. Her relationship with Curran strengthens as she seriously considers her fears that Curran is only with her to use her powers (really, she should be asking herself the reverse at least as much), rather than reflexively fleeing as soon as those fears surface. In the course of the investigation, she runs across old family on her mother's side who have a lot to tell her about what her mother was Really like and how Mom convinced Voron to take little Kate and run away with her -- and how Voron Really felt about little Kate and/or Roland and/or their hypothetical encounter. It's an interesting explanation for Kate's deep paranoia, and a plausible mechanism for Kate being willing to trust Curran and their love for each other.
I think a lot of people read Urban Fantasy to explore emotional terrain that can be difficult to access more directly. Some people do this more consciously than others. Some of us are constantly looking for patterns that map Urban Fantasy onto The Real World. In addition to the personal development themes that appear throughout many urban fantasy series, there's a lot of speculation about the various supernatural races and what they might map to in real life. This entry offered up a couple of tantalizing bits to add to that discussion: Julie's infection and cure and the werewolf trial. Julie's infection and cure point in the direction of "disease minority", which is probably way too simplistic to be plausible. The werewolf trial, however, points in a very different direction: ethnic communities dealing with integration into a larger, hostile culture and the younger generations of that community (particularly as the community integrates and the Old Ways get reshaped in very confusing ways) sort of cartoonifying tradition in a not-so-great way. Kate winds up playing a really interesting role in that community, trying to interpret mating in a way that preserves tradition without allowing it to be used oppressively.
I'll keep reading.