Rachel's Reviews > Cold Magic

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
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's review
Feb 02, 2012

liked it
Read in February, 2012

I always love the first books in Kate Elliott’s series. She does such a wonderful job of creating strong, unique characters and an interesting world. I expected to love this beginning of a new series, but it was only so-so for me.

As expected the world was different (alternate reality Europa during the Napoleonic wars with a strong African influence) and well thought out. The war / power struggle is between European royal families, Mage house, and the common people. It would have been interesting except I always felt like it was only three legs of a four-legged stool. Where was religion? We’re given Europa history without a single mention of the might of the Catholic Church or reformers (or Kate Elliot versions of the previous). And the lack was too noticeable to me.

I also had a hard time with the language. It felt rather modern, although this might be because one of my favorite fantasy series is set in the same time period and that author made a point of having the characters speak (especially) in an era-appropriate fashion. In the back of my mind I kept noticing the difference (which is that really Kate Elliot's fault? Probably not, but it bugged me.)

I really liked the male characters especially Andevai (the hero to the protag’s heroine and love interest). I kind of saw him as Ilya ten years before the start of the Jaran book. I also loved the heroine’s brother and the trolls. But Cat (the heroine) was only okay for me. And I didn’t like Bee (Cat’s cousin) who I felt upstaged Cat anytime they shared a scene. In a lot of ways, this was more Bee’s book that Cat’s. The climax is ALL about Bee with Cat as an observer.

There were also several plot holes where I found myself asking ‘Why didn’t she just…’

But my biggest problem? My biggest problem is that I don’t trust Kate Elliot as an author, and that was in the back of my mind the entire book. I don’t trust her to finish the series (Jaran). I don’t trust her to build a series arc around the characters she opens with (Crown of Stars). More than anything I don’t trust her to keep to an emotionally satisfying romance arc. Cat comes from a (at last historically) polyandry culture. Andevai comes from a polygyny culture. This all is underscored too much to not catch on my radar.

I get that Kate Elliot likes to (and is) exploring cultures different from modern western civilizations (this is one of the reasons I love her books). I get that in real life cultures live in polygamous relationships. I’m fine with it. But, I get grossed out by mixing western ideals of romance with polygamous relationships. And since Jaran had three-somes and Crown of Stars had long-term adultery, I’m not sure I want to know where she is going with Andevai and Cat (who are in a forced marriage but clearly intended for love). Especially as I felt some romantic tension between Cat and another male character. Ewwww….

So will I read the next book in the series? I’m undecided. I LOVED her book Jaran, but I almost wished I’d never read on because of the things that happened to the romance in the rest of the series. (And these are NOT romance novels, but messing with a marriage relationship destroys the characters for me.) This book is not Jaran. Cat is not Tess. It may not be worth it.

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