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Cold Magic

(Spiritwalker #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  8,807 ratings  ·  1,080 reviews
As they approach adulthood, Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee think they understand the society they live in and their place within it. At a select academy they study new airship technologies and the dawning Industrial Revolution, but magical forces still rule. And the cousins are about to discover the full ruthlessness of this rule.
Paperback, 528 pages
Published September 2nd 2010 by Orbit (first published January 1st 2010)
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Sven The English copies I have are paperback, but I do have a Dutch hardcover copy at home as well. If it exists in Dutch, I suspect it will in English too…moreThe English copies I have are paperback, but I do have a Dutch hardcover copy at home as well. If it exists in Dutch, I suspect it will in English too. (:(less)

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Dec 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: possibly the fans of the Parasol Protectorate series
Pretty close to awful. In fairness, I'll admit I'm not a fan of Victorian romances. Didn't think this was one?


Here, let me save you some time:

Chapter 1 to 6

Cat misses her dead father, so she reads his expedition journals. Cat is cold because they can’t afford heat in the big, drafty house. She is hungry because she missed breakfast. Cat is cold when she runs to school because she forgot her coat, the one in last season’s style. See Cat’s cousin, Bee, and “best friend” pinch her during lectur
When I decided to put Cold Magic aside, after 67% of very little pleasure and a lot of struggle, I felt pretty angry and offended. Angry, because reading these 360 pages took a huge effort and did not dole out the tiniest reward. Offended, because the book, written by an author with quite some published writing to show as a proof for her skills, made me question my ability to focus, my ability to absorb and understand what I read and - for a short, shocking minute – the functionality of my Kindl ...more
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, 2016-shelf
First off, I really ought to say that there are a lot of very good aspects to this novel. Some parts, such as the dream of the dragon, the bits with the illusions and the cold steel, and especially the alternate history of Europe right up to the Regency era, with all of the Napoleanic (Camjiata) flavors built right in, even going far back for the world-building to the great empire of Carthage, the Phoenicians.

Like I said, there's a lot to love.

Unfortunately, there's also the bad.

Andevai has got
Sarah Mac
A GR friend of mine has a shelf called wtf was this. And as I closed this book for the last time, utterly defeated by the barrage of incomprehensible & unnecessary pseudo-european cultural fantasy-speak, I actually thought what the fuck was this? If I had a shelf with that label, I'd put COLD MAGIC on it.

As much as it pains me (& really, it does; I had high expectations for this one), I'm waving the white flag.

Regardless of my issues with the poorly-developed setting & magical WTFery, I've been
Sep 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, epic-fantasy
I wrote a really long review and somehow it got erased just as I was about to press "post." Is it because it's Monday? Jeeeez.

Ok, AS I WAS SAYING, this book was between 3 and 4 stars for me, but I gave it 4 because at the end of the book I was really satisfied and wanted more. I really really enjoyed Cold Magic, I liked the female protagonist a lot and the mystery behind the book and the politics of the world. Only negative: the world-building slogged down the pace in places though because there
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
Ughhhh I know I shouldn't but this book is only 99 cents so GUESS WHAT I BOUGHT ...more
Jan 10, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is so FRUSTRATING

I mean, interesting premise: Steampunky alternate Europe in which there is widespread multicultural cross-pollination and ~magic~. Check!

Great characters: Headstrong young lady who has been sadly misinformed about herself for most of her life, and a Harlequin-worthy hatemance with the spoiled Cold Mage she's forced to marry and who is Not All What He Seems. Check!

But on the other hand--

Plot: Hello, yoo-hoo, plot? Where are you? Look at the cover blurb:

"Young Cat Baraha
Alex Fayle
May 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic is about as slippery as dress shoes on ice. But fortunately without the painful fall.

Why is it slippery? Because it’s (as Elliott describes it) a mashup novel.

When I started reading I decided it was a magic-riddled steampunk novel. Then I decided it was also a political novel (exploring cultural beliefs using an alternate Europe). But no sooner had I decided that when Elliott threw in an “I hate him with all my heart” romance in the best Harlequin tradition. Later, once
Rusty's Ghost Engine (also known as.......... Jinky Spring)
Review also available @Scaredy Engines End of Line Library

This was such a richly described complex novel that was about a lot of things I'm interested in e.g. culture, mythology and the what ifs in history. This is not a story to be rushed it has to be savored and analysed to get the full experience.

The novel is set in an alternate early 19th century europa that still has fragments of the ice age and magic and the spirit world are real and well known. After the fall of the Roman empire the regi
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Re-read Update (6/29/2021): I think reading this book during the summer was a bad idea because it is so hot and this book was set in winter and I couldn't jive with the cold, biting temperatures. I still love the characters of Bee, Cat, and Andevai, and all of their interactions together. That's the best part of the book.

The pacing was a lot slower than I remember and there was much more world building so some of it went over my head. I'm thinking I'll enjoy the next book more (as I did the las
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
The beginning of Cold Magic was both slow and felt rather cumbersome, and while I did not precisely struggle to read it, I was more than ambivalent about it. There are reasons for this. The world building has to begin and the author balances a delicate line between too much detail and exposition and not enough (well, like all fantasy novels). I wouldn't say that it was clumsily done, but it was a little heavy. I found myself at turns confused and then enlightened and then confused once more, but ...more
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
In an alternate history Europe an orphaned girl struggles for her family against forces that would use them as political and magical pawns.

The world-building here is intricate and rich, with a very geologically different Earth. There still appears to be enough of an ice age that the Mediterranean is small and there's no English Channel and the middle of Europe is still glacier-bound. Also historically, with no Christianity, and an extant Roman Empire that didn't defeat Carthage and didn't collap
An awesome book that blew me away;

The setting is an ice-age like alt-Earth around the 1800's but with a quite different history, magic houses, but also budding science that the "cold mages" dislike and want suppressed, but the local princes try to protect

The heroine/narrator is Cat (Catherine) of Carthaginian descent - here 2000 years ago Carthage was ruled by queens (called dido's for the famous mythical founder) and Hannibal defeated the Romans at Zama for once, so the two powers fought thems
Stjepan Cobets
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of fantasy
Shelves: fantasy
The book "Cold Magic" leads to a parallel world in Europe, in the world ruled by the Cold magic house and many royal houses. This is the dark world in which human life is worth nothing, and all the inhabitants were slaves or Cold magic house or Ruler. The industrial revolution was in its infancy, but Houses of Cold magicians are hardly conducive to the progress and try to prevent any progress. Therefore, the rebellion led by the Roman legate Camjiata, but after a terrible war and the destruction ...more
Cold Magic is an alternate history fantasy, but unlike any I’ve read before. It takes place in England in the 1800s - I think, since there isn’t really an England or a Victoria as far I can tell. Some aspects of both Regency and Victorian society are there, including an alternate Industrial Revolution. All of Europe is still frozen in an extended ice age. There are mage houses and princes in conflict with serving classes and technology, and there is just a tiny bit of steampunkishness to it - th ...more
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this alternate world Regency fantasy - great world-building, characters, and peril. My main complaint is that I think it needed to be pared down - parts got a bit repetitive.
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
I'm not sure what I was expecting this book to be but, whatever it was, what I got wasn't it. I think I expected more historical relevance, more political intrigue, perhaps less romance, though I'm certainly not opposed to romance in a story, and more, well - I think what I expected was for the world-building and the history to be more important to the actual story than it was.

There are times when the history becomes relevant to the story line, like the not travelling abroad during Samhain and t
Sep 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I don't often find a book I want to read again after the first initial inhalation of its story and characters. I don't want to pore over events that shape the narrative, linger over the words spoken and the feelings felt by the different characters. It's a rare book that engages me to the extent that I will read and reread because every time I do, I find something more to take away from it.Cold Magic, the first book in the Spirit Walker trilogy, is one such rare book. I found myself reading as s ...more
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
My first Kate Elliott book. I HAVE SUCH FOND MEMORIES. *_* Things this book has:

- awesome diverse cast!
- lady friendships that are incredibly important to both ladies AND THE PLOT!
- examination and critique of colonialism and other terrible social ills, BY CLEVER HEROINE and company
- kissing!
- magic!
- a complicated romance with a dude that doesn't come with an easy resolution that both people have to work for!

More thoughts (with spoilers):
Ranting Dragon
Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: michael

Cold Magic is the first book in the new Spirit Walker trilogy by Kate Elliott, established author of both the Crown of Stars and the Crossroads series. As the result of a family obligation, Catherine Hassi Barahal is forced into an arranged marriage to a young noble, an enigmatic cold mage. She is immediately torn away from her home and her education in the technology of the impending industrial age, only to find that marriage into a mage house is far from
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Several years ago, I read this author’s Crossroads trilogy, beginning with Spirit Gate. My memory of it is really fuzzy, but I remember it as being a fairly complex story, with multiple points-of-view and storylines. I also remember that I really enjoyed it, and I’ve wanted to try some of her other books.

This book was a little different from what I expected based on my fuzzy memory of Crossroads. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but there were some aspects of the writing that seemed amate
Foz Meadows
May 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is going to be a longish review and also a rambling one, so I’ll ask you to bear with me.

Despite having purchased the third volume in Kate Elliott’s amazing Crossroads trilogy close on three months ago, I’ve not yet started reading it. This is due, in large part, to the originality of her worldbuilding; and I mean that as a compliment. Being as I am a devout mythology and history geek and also a lifelong fantasist, there are certain narrative cues to which my interests make me sensitive. Wh
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Originally Reviewed on The Book Smugglers:

Catherine Hassi Barahal (or Cat to all that know her) has always taken pride in her family’s rich history. The Hassi Barahals are a storied Phoenician clan of merchants, spies and traders of information, tracing their roots back to even before the height of Rome’s ambitious empire. When she was six Cat’s father, the scholarly wanderer Daniel Hassi Barahal, and her mother, the Amazonian warrior Tara Bell, perished
Ashley Marie

As with a lot of books where I don't quite "get it" - I feel like I should reread it, but I also don't want to waste my time.

The Good
- The world-building was really cool. I'm always down for alternate histories.
- Cat. Bea. Rory.

The Bad
- Was I supposed to like the husband? What an insufferable ass. And as far as Cat could describe, it seemed the only thing that attracted her was his physical attractiveness, which, no.
- It felt too long and repetitive in spots.

The Weird
- The characters seem to s
Aug 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
Boring, long and it desperately needed a good editor.
Also, Cold Magic was very poorly researched. It felt as if the author set up a dart board with the names of ancient cultures and just started throwing darts. Whatever names the darts hit, she'd use in her story without actually trying to make their usage be coherent or research the cultures customs, languages or anything. Sort of like a child who decided to wear all of his or hers best clothes at once. The result is cute for a while, but if d
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
This feels, for some reason, like it skims the surface of a story. It lacks density and heft. It is kind of cute at times. I like Cat and her relationship with Bea but so much of this is so light.
Oct 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Three and a half stars.

I loved: the setting. Roman Empire continued a lot later than in "our world", and the society Elliott depicted is fascinating.

I didn't love: the setting. It probably didn't help that I read this while (re)-working on a section of our book to do with alternate histories, and this almost is and isn't quite an alternate history. Little things kept niggling at me about that - why should there still be so much hatred against the Romans - even to the point of one character's say
Sue (Hollywood News Source)
Actual Rating: 3. 5 stars

I would’ve rated it higher if I didn’t skimmed some of the scenes I deemed unnecessary.

Cold Magic is without doubt one of the most ingenious and well established book I’ve ever read. Elliott approached the fantasy genre by meshing steampunk in her work with a heavy emphasis on cultural diversity.

I’m a mess and I don’t know if I could ever justify how inclusive this book is. I love how Cold Magic tackled kinship without blood relation, colonialism, slavery, empowering wo
Lost Planet Airman
Well. This is an interesting adventure story with a definite YA vibe, but a lot more difficult to read than, say, the Hunger Games or Divergent trilogies. It faces the challenge of being a mash-up of alternate-history (Carthage v. Rome was fought to a draw instead of Carthage's crushing loss) and a period piece (technology is just reaching the industrial age, giving a Napoleanic era feeling with Antebellum America overtones) and, of course, the titular fantasy.
Jumping through scenery in a coach
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 other words, spies. She’s trained to use a blade an
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As a child in rural Oregon, Kate Elliott made up stories because she longed to escape to a world of lurid adventure fiction. She now writes fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction, often with a romantic edge. She currently lives in Hawaii, where she paddles outrigger canoes and spoils her schnauzer.

Other books in the series

Spiritwalker (3 books)
  • Cold Fire (Spiritwalker, #2)
  • Cold Steel (Spiritwalker, #3)

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