COLD MAGIC is a fantastic cross-genre epic, bringing together themes from epic fantasy, romantic fantasy, steampunk, and alternative history to snare readers for hours. I was 100% sucked into this world, reading the first two 500+ page installments in less than a week. If the third was available, I’d be reading that one right now too!
Catherine Hassi Barahal is a young woman raised in a family known for its skill as merchants of information...in other words, spies. She’s trained to use a blade and keep secrets both for her family, but more importantly for herself. Born with unheard of abilities to disappear in plain site, hear beyond human ability, and see in the dark, Catherine is very much the Cat that everyone calls her. But her most important secret is one that even she doesn’t know. When the cold mage comes to claim her, Cat is drawn into a chaotic adventure that slowly reveals the truth about her history and lays the path of the future.
Characters: ***** 5 Stars
I adored the characters in COLD MAGIC. Cat is fully believable, and someone that I would probably be great friends with if I ever met her in person. She’s feisty and talks too much, but she’s also loyal, hard-working, and has a vulnerable core that endeared her to me. Her cousin, Beatrice (Bee), is similarly well-rounded. Also loyal, Bee is a much better actress and knows how to use her feminine charms to get what she wants. The two together make a perfect team. Meanwhile, the cold mage, Andevai (Vai), is just what he sounds: cold. He’s haughty and rude, paying little attention to the physical needs and emotional turmoil of his hapless bride. However, every once in awhile, you get a glimpse of the real man underneath the cold mask, and by the end of the book I have to admit I was rooting for him.
Plot: **** 4 Stars
Betrayed by her family and married off to the cold mage, Cat’s adventure is just beginning. There are enough twists and turns to keep it interesting despite the length of the novel. I will admit that a few of the twists were obvious chapters in advance of their revelation, and occasionally I was frustrated that Cat wasn’t figuring things out faster, but it was never enough to make me want to put the book down, even for a moment!
Setting: ***** 5 Stars
The alternate earth setting is drawn with fine detail and attention to our earth’s history. Kate Elliott must have done a great deal of research in preparation for world building, because the quality of the descriptions and integration of backstory is unparalleled.
Romance: **** 4 Stars
I’m giving the romance less than 5 stars for one reason and one reason only: Cat, though confused about her feelings, still doesn’t trust or like Vai at the end of the book. I have a strong feeling this is going to change (okay, I already read the second installment, but I’m reviewing that separately) but I couldn’t give a full 5 stars when the romantic interest isn’t at least partially gratified by the end. That being said, I loved the slow-build as Vai’s true nature is revealed, and Cat’s conflicting emotions. In the full arc of the trilogy, I expect great things from the two of them.
Genre - Multiple: ***** 5 Stars
This may be the first book I’ve read that crosses more than two genres. Certainly it’s epic fantasy: it’s a cross country adventure with magic and trolls and a parallel spiritworld. It’s also steampunk with a conflict between the old magical order and the new technologies rising from the Amerikes. There’s a potential for a strong romance between Cat and Andevai, and the the novel also takes place in an “alternate earth” setting. Regardless, Kate Elliott does a wonderful job tying together these elements and creating a story that fits into all and none of these.