Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott

Long time no see, blog friends! A lot has been happening, so I haven't had much time to read. Cold Magic was a quick read, though...I had trouble putting it down. From the back cover:

The history of the world begins in ice, and it will end in ice.

It is the dawn of a new age... The Industrial Revolution has begun, factories are springing up across the country, and new technologies are transforming in the cities. But the old ways do not die easy.

Cat and Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can't be trusted, who can you trust?

I've been waiting for Cold Magic for quite some time now, and for an epic fantasy, it's a very fast-paced read. 502 pages may sound daunting, but the action moves fairly quickly. I was pretty happy about that because I've been dragging through King's Dragon by the same author for a good long while now, and I just can't quite get into it. I had no such trouble with this book.

The characterization is great as well. I was surprised as the characters' true personalities and nuances were revealed. While I can't say I liked all of them, I believed them. Their motivations and attitudes generally made sense, given their upbringings and current situation. As much as this is a fantasy story, the human element takes center stage. Cat and Bee's relationship, although they are cousins, is as close as sisters. There is a lot of betrayal and selfishness in this book, and you really see the dark side of humanity. Everyone, it seems, is looking out for number one. The bright spot is definitely the girls' love for each other. Things are what they appear to be with the two of them: they would sacrifice everything for the other. I think their relationship might be one of my favorite parts of the book.

Based on the cover and the synopsis, I can't say this story ever went as I expected. When I first started writing this review, I was going to open by saying that the back cover of this book was not very descriptive. However, reflecting on the book now, I can't say I fully grasp what's going on in this world entirely. The book cover describes how the book opens, but certainly not how it progresses.

Generally, in an epic fantasy, events tie together to one great event or danger. However, I felt like there was a lot happening in this book but there wasn't one coherent idea of what was going on in this world. Is it a political revolution? Is there something happening in the spirit world? Where's the magic/science clash that is described on the cover? Most of the book is taken up by Catherine's journey, and I think that may be one of the weaknesses of a first person narrative. Our perspective is as narrow as hers is, and I'm not entirely sure that's appropriate for a trilogy that touts itself as "epic" and has such a broad scope as this one appears to have. Elliott slowly reveals information, so I am hoping this will be something that will become more cohesive in the second book.

The world Elliot creates intrigues me. Her alternate history seems to be well-researched (to my untrained eye) and at the very least well thought out. The characters are interesting and several, including the heroine, are likable. Although the storyline of this initial book seems small-scale and somewhat disorganized, I look forward to the second book and the rest of the series.
Bottom Line
 To sum it up: A fast paced, epic-ish, steampunk-ish fantasy with loads of promise.
Overall Rating: 4 / 5
Buy or Try? Buy
More? 1 / 3 projected. Cold Steel and Cold Fire will be the 2nd and 3rd books
Plot: 3 / 5
Setting: 4 / 5
Characters: 4 / 5
Pace: Fast
Descriptiveness: Prose, bordering into Poetry sometimes
Fantasy factor: Low Fantasy


Clare said...

Oh, I'm looking forward to this one! Thanks for your review.

Escapist said...

I hope you enjoy it!

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