In my opinion, Magic Burns was a typical case of your sophomore slump. All the fundamentals from the original work are still there, but it just lost it's magic (no pun intended). Magic Strikes is a return to form. And I for one, am glad that it's back.
Our story centers around Gladiator-style games of combat, magic, and weaponry and I must admit that the Roman commoner in me went wild with excitement. Kate has to rescue Derek, the teen-wolf, from Saiman after he attempts to break into Saiman's apartment in search of admission tickets to the Midnight Games. The Games are completely forbidden and highly illegal, so of course they're right up Kate's alley.
The plot was fast-paced and I breezed through the book in less than a day, mainly due to the fact that I just had to know what was going to happen next. Andrews didn't concern herself with introducing too many new characters for Kate, only antagonists, which helped the reader stay focused on the story.
I loved all the action, but the other biggest surprise for me was the change in Kate's character. She is much more vulnerable this time around. She hasn't lost any of her hardass-ness, but Andrews was kind enough to break down some of Kate's walls, and we actually learn a lot about our heroine, including her deep dark secrets.
Kate's interactions with the other characters has changed as well. Andrea has become Kate's true confidant, but her interactions with Jim, Derek, and even Raphael teeter on true friendships, which lends warmth to her character. And of course, her relationship with Curran progresses slightly, finally.
Bottom Line: Magic Strikes was an engaging tale that brought life back to the Kate Daniels series.