Rashida's Reviews > Cold Magic

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
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's review
Oct 15, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: diaspora, sci-fi-fantasy, young-adult, herstory, alternate-history

I really enjoyed this book. And I've been forcing myself to put off reading the second one, because I know that I will also enjoy that, and I need to ration myself. And I know that the third is as yet not released, and let's not rush into waiting, you know?

There is something beautiful about a book that takes your typical magical quest story, but makes it about a girl that actually is strong (and has realistic flaws), who is a woman of color, who exists (kind of) in our world, and the *main* concern of the story is not who she will kiss and whether he freaking sparkles. And the kind of parenthetical is where all of the interesting comes in because people, get this: Africa and Ireland joined forces to put a whupping on the Romans. And as far as magic goes, it is practiced by all kinds of people, including those darker than a paper bag, and they are NOT EVIL. Trope, I turn thee on your head. And then, the lawyers are trolls from America, who are actually bird/lizard/dinosaur things. And no, that doesn't offend me.

In all seriousness, the sideways steps into this alternate history are thought provoking and well done, never seeming forced, but as natural to the world as presented. It's a lot to build up, and Elliot does it in a fairly fluid style, trusting her readers to get things that are going on without laying it a plain and betraying the absorption the story surrounds you in.

I would, though, have liked this better if it were not YA. There were a few times when I felt a plot thrown in, just because you got to make the teen girls swoon to sell the books, and it felt a bit silly as compared to the rest of the happenings. It was quite refreshing, though, when a character in the book essentially rolled her eyes and said out loud, "wow, that was just lame," at the same time I was thinking it, so at least Elliott appears to have some shame about it.

But, for as many times as I rolled my eyes, there were as many moments where Elliot genuinely surprised me with "what happened next." And with the magical quest stories, it has been a while since that happened.

One thing I haven't touched on is the relationship between the main character and her cousin. Because really, we don't only have one strong girl, we have two. And believe it or not, they are strong in different ways, because believe it or not, there are different ways for female strength to manifest itself. They play wonderfully off of each other, and their love and devotion to each other seems touching and real, and reminds me why I always wished I had a sister.

I really enjoyed this book, and it is much more like a 4.5 star read.
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Reading Progress

October 15, 2011 – Shelved
April 30, 2012 – Started Reading
April 30, 2012 –
page 62
May 2, 2012 –
page 158
29.92% "I appreciate she has a lot of world building to do. Some info dumps have been handled better than others. I think, though, that I am LOVING this character"
May 3, 2012 –
page 220
May 3, 2012 –
page 220
41.67% "And now the story is really flowing. I thought we were going in one direction, and its taken a completely different path. Good stuff."
May 3, 2012 –
page 325
61.55% "you know everytime I think, "here we go with the YA trope, time to appease the tween girls," she pulls it right on back."
May 5, 2012 – Finished Reading
June 1, 2012 – Shelved as: diaspora
June 1, 2012 – Shelved as: sci-fi-fantasy
June 1, 2012 – Shelved as: young-adult
June 1, 2012 – Shelved as: herstory
June 1, 2012 – Shelved as: alternate-history

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Sarah I'm very interested to hear what you think of these. I keep waffling back and forth on my ratings of them.

Rashida So far it's going well. I see some things she set up that could take the story off the rails depending on execution. But so far, she's steering clear.

Sarah is it YA? that certainly would explain a lot of the swooning as you say. i went into it with the expectation that it was not YA and did indeed do a fair amount of eye rolling (although i did also simultaneously get heavily invested in the romantic plotline and then realized it and felt silly about myself and the whole thing). i wonder if i would have felt differently about it if I had gone into it expecting it to be YA.

Which I guess also brings up some interesting points about what we expect in YA exactly. Because i've always sort of felt that it was a fairly silly and arbitrary distinction, and yet now here i am asserting the view that i would have felt differently about the book if i had expected it to be YA -- whatever that is.

Rashida It certainly comes off as YA to me. The cover art for one, looks very stereotypical, and anytime a character is late adolescence, I pretty much assume that's the case without some signs to the contrary. Plus some things were skirted around in ways that seemed deliberate of "keep it PG13, folks." But, you raise a good point and did a bit of light snooping on the interwebs and I didn't see anything that explicitly labels this as YA, but on Elliott's goodreads page, it does list YA as one of the genres that she writes. So, I'll let it be a toss up as to which of us has made the wrong assumption. :)

Sarah huh. i guess i assumed non-YA because I've always seen it just in the SFF section. And I guess because it's put out by Orbit and not one of Hachette's YA imprints. but certainly marketing is not the arbitrator of genre. it makes me wonder if maybe she saw it more as YA when she wrote it and then it got marketed differently.

have you read the "deleted scene" from cold fire? it is WAY not PG13. in fact, when i saw that there was a scene deleted "b/c of sexual content" i was like "wtf? this isn't YA (or so i thought), why is Orbit censoring her?" but actually it's verging on erotica and would really have given the book a pretty different tone.

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