Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Cold Magic by Kate Elliot

Finished: November 28, 2011
Pages: 624
Publisher: Orbit (Hachette)
Series: The Spiritwalker Trilogy (#1)

Synopsis: Cat Barahal was the only survivor of the flood that took her parents. Raised by her extended family, she and her cousin, Bee, are unaware of the dangers that threaten them both. Though they are in beginning of the Industrial Age, magic - and the power of the Cold Mages - still hold sway. Now, betrayed by her family and forced to marry a powerful Cold Mage, Cat will be drawn into a labyrinth of politics. There she will learn the full ruthlessness of the rule of the Cold Mages. What do the Cold Mages want from her? And who will help Cat in her struggle against them?
Quote: “If we prosper only through the suffering or death of another, then that is not prosperity.”

Thoughts: Cold Magic was an impulse buy for me. I was browsing Barnes & Noble and came across this book on display, side by side with its sequel, Cold Fire. I don’t make too many impulse buys anymore, what with the internet and my endless TBR list piling on top of me, but it’s one of my favorite ways to shop. How else are you going to discover those hidden gems? Admittedly, I was drawn in by the cover. Now that I’ve read this, I am happy that the girl on the cover looks a bit ethnic, just as Cat is described. If you know me, you know I’m still a little miffed that a certain olive skinned heroine is being played by a pale natural blonde, no matter how wonderful her acting talent may be. So the cover, in my opinion, is terrific. Beyond the cover, was Cold Magic a hidden gem for me? Yes and no.

I would be lying to you if I said that the first half of this book left me anything but disappointed. I enjoyed the characters and the building story, but felt the book was bogged down by too many information dumps, and they weighed quite heavily on the characters. Sixteen year old Cat would frequently recite large chunks of history in her dialogue with other characters, as if she were a traveling history professor, and not only did it make her voice feel less than authentic, but it was also a chore to read. While Kate Elliott does a great thing by trying to build up such a detailed alternate history for Europe, I feel that the history almost eclipses the current story during the first half of the novel.

Another complaint is that I often felt confused by the events unfolding in the story. I’m not sure I’ve ever faced this issue before, at least not recently, but it seemed as though the descriptions of the actions unfolding weren’t quite explained well enough, and left me confused as to how we got from Point A to Point B. Between that and feeling like I was in high school history class all over again, the first half was a struggle.

Fortunately, close to the halfway point, things picked up. More focus was placed on Cat’s story and less on the description of history. As a heroine, I found Cat easy to root for. She was strong but also forgiving. She had a bit of spunk to her but not to the point that she became egotistical. Her back story involving her parents really inspired me to relate to and feel something for her as a character.
Cat’s relationship and loyalty to her cousin Beatrice was also wonderful to read. I especially enjoyed their relationship during the second half, since Beatrice is given a chance to shine and develop. Her tendency toward ignoring tact is a nice balance next to Cat’s personality.

As for the romance, I didn’t know what to think. I’ve been burned by the “prisoner to love story” in the past. In this case, Andevai was almost as much of a victim as Cat, so the transition was easier to understand. I admit, I didn’t understand Cat’s attraction to him earlier in the story, so I wasn’t expecting much from their romance. I’m happy to report that Kate Elliott completely surprised me in the end. This is definitely a relationship I can learn to love in the later books. I particularly enjoyed watching Andevai develop throughout the story.

Another thing I enjoyed was the wide cast of characters representing many races. That is not something you see very often and it was refreshing to read.

During the first half of the book, I was honestly not expecting to read book two. Now I can’t wait to pick it up. Kate Elliott has won me over with her new series. Cold magic with a touch of Steampunk is obviously the way to my heart.

Recommendation: I would recommend this to Fantasy lovers who also enjoy a little Alternate History. Though, I don’t read a lot of it myself, and I managed to enjoy it despite how heavy the first half was.


Three out of Five Coffees

Cold Magic is on sale now in paperback. You can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, and other retailers. Perhaps even at your local Indie store? The sequel, Cold Fire, was released September 26, 2011 by Orbit.

Extras: Want to check out some other perspectives on Cold Magic? Find other reviews at Fantasy Cafe and Dear Author.

Looking for other books similar to this one? I haven’t read anything quite like the mix here before. Though Game of Thrones comes to mind because of the mix of fantasy, politics and history. The narrator is a bit younger than most of the narrators in GOT, however.


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