Author: Kate Elliott
Publisher: Orbit (US & UK)
Publication Date: September 2011 (US & UK)
Paperback: 640 pages
Only one thing is certain: when Hallows’ Night comes, the Wild Hunt will ride – and it feeds on mortal blood.
Cat and her cousin Bee are caught in a maze of intrigue, treachery, and magic. Everyone seems to want something from them: the Cold Mages are trying to take them prisoner, and the warlord who wants to conquer all of Europa seems sure they have a special destiny to aid him whether they want to or not. Worse, hidden powers deep in the spirit world are rising, and they are the most dangerous of all. Cat must seek allies and figure out who she can trust in order to save the ones she loves. For if she doesn’t, everything will be lost.
Stand alone or series: Book 2 of the Spiritwalker Trilogy
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher
Why did I read this book: After reading and loving Cold Magic (the first book in the trilogy) earlier this year, Cold Fire quickly became one of my most highly anticipated sequels of 2011. I pined for this book. PINED.
**WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS INEVITABLE, UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS FOR COLD MAGIC. If you have not read the first book in this trilogy and wish to remain unspoiled, I implore you now – LOOK AWAY! You have been warned.**
Catherine Bell Hassi Barahal has been through an incredibly trying few weeks. Willingly sacrificed by her Aunt and Uncle in order to protect their daughter, Beatrice, Cat has been whisked from her home and bound into an unbreakable marriage to haughty, powerful cold mage Andevai Diarisso Haranwy, based on a prophecy and a deal struck by the Hassi Barahals and the cold mage houses. The only problem is that Cat is not truly a Hassi Barahal by blood, and the cold mages are horrified to have been duped into a magically binding marriage to the wrong girl. The only way to dissolve the marriage is death, and Cat – betrayed, sacrificed, and utterly alone – flees for her life, with her cold mage husband in pursuit.
After the events of Cold Magic, Cat finds herself reunited with her beloved cousin Bee (who had no idea of her parents’ duplicity) but still on the run – from the mage houses that will kill Cat and force Bee into marriage; from the army that wants to keep the girls under their thumb; from warlord Camjiata, the man with the sweeping ambition to unite a disparate Europa under his reign; and, most importantly, from Cat’s husband Andevai, for whom Cat has undeniable feelings (however inconvenient or unwanted). Cat’s flight takes her from the cold landscape of western Europe to the spirit world where she finally learns the truth of her parentage and, bound once again by a cruel magic, is set on a dangerous, terrifying task on the distant shores of the dreaded Salt Island and the Caribbean-like local of the Taino Kingdom. It is here that Cat comes to terms with her identity, her destiny and her heart.
To say that I had high expectations for Cold Fire is a gross understatement – because, fellow readers, try as I might to put a damper on my expectations and outlandish hopes, I guess I’m a sucker at heart and I had huge pie-in-the-sky hopes for Cold Fire. And wouldn’t ya know it? Kate Elliott freakin’ delivers. I loved Cold Fire. Intensely. Allow me to enumerate the ways:
1. The plotting is sprawling, complex, and still manages to move along at a fast and furious pace. For a 600+ page book, this is no small feat. Picking up immediately where Cold Magic leaves off, Kate Elliott ruthlessly plunges readers back into the world of Adurnam, where Cat and Bee are on the run from mages and armies alike. I’ll admit, it took a little while to jog my memory and get back into the story, but I appreciated the decided lack of recap.1 There’s a lot of running in this book, especially in those early chapters, but the onslaught keeps a reader on her toes and engaged with the crazy huge scope of politicking and action that is occurring in this strange new world. There’s a shifting focus from the power of the cold mages in this second novel, as we learn more about the spirit world (and Cat’s sire), as well as fire mages that prosper in the tropics to the south and west. There’s the omnipresent threat of Camjiata as he tries to curry favor and military support from the Taino before he makes his assault on Europa – and his destiny is inextricably linked to Bee’s and, more frighteningly, to Cat’s. There’s the introduction to Salt Island and the poor souls afflicted by the “teeth” sickness, gone mad and ravenous and highly infectious. There’s the introduction of an entirely new culture and belief system, which brings me to…
1a. The worldbuilding is badass. As an addendum to the above reason for Cold Fire love, the realm of the Taino is a refreshing change from the cold familiarity of western Europa. Ms. Elliott’s is a world similar to our own, but with a Jacqueline Carey-esque spin – while core beliefs and geography may be similar, there are a number of creative reimaginings of myths and culture that characterize the setting of the Spiritwalker trilogy. The Caribbean people of Taino do speak with a Creole type of patois (e.g. “Yee a real maku, ja? New come to the Antilles?” and “Not a bit like dat, Cat’reen”) which is bound to grate for some readers, but I personally felt the attention to detail, the lack of haughty Victorian-esque “colonization” mentality, and the humanization granted to each of these characters was handled respectfully and tastefully.
2. The characters are so deliciously genuine, complete with strengths and flaws, as well as motivations and actions that make sense. I cannot stress the importance of this particular factor. Cat makes her fair share of missteps and bonehead decisions – but not because she’s blithely ignorant or stupid, and not in any lame attempt to create melodrama to propel the plot along. Rather, Cat’s faults are in perfect keeping with her character (and as first person narrator, she’s also not the most reliable person) – she’s slow to trust anyone and fiercely protective of those she loves. I continue to be impressed by Cat’s quiet strength and pigheadedness, as well as with her determination to save those she loves by any means necessary. Cat discovers a lot about herself and her destiny in this book, and I loved seeing her grow and learn to open up to others. Especially where the next point is concerned…
3. The romance is of central importance without being overpowering (or hijacking the plot), and is heart-warming without being cheesy. I may not be the most romantic person, but I love it when a romance is executed perfectly – without excessive cheese, without inappropriate haste, and by playing effectively with tropes that are not cringeworthy. Such is the relationship between Andevai and Cat. Yes, theirs is a classic romantic foible: falling in love after being married. But when it’s done well? Hot damn is it effective – and Ms. Elliott weilds the trope with expert skill. I love that there is no guarantee of happy endings with this pair, either – you don’t know if they’ll be able to get their shit together and look past the past. I won’t spoil you, and I won’t tell you if they do end up together, for any modicum of happiness. The tension, the misunderstanding, and the angst is all part of the appeal in this middle novel, and I loved every second of it.
At the end of the day, I’m not sure if Cold Fire surpasses Cold Magic – but the two are on equally awesome footing. I loved this book, and it earns a spot on my top 10 favorites of the year. I cannot wait for Cold Steel!
Notable Quotes/Parts: You can read a full excerpt using the widget below or by visiting Hachette’s Open Book online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: This is a potential SPOILER for Cold Fire, so I am hiding the text – highlight to read (but again, you have been warned!):
There is a bonus chapter available online at Kate Elliott’s blog – told from Andevai’s point of view. This chapter was left out of the book because it contains explicit sexual content (a wise choice, in my opinion!). You can check out the chapter HERE.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson
Buy the Book:
- I love it when an author isn’t afraid to break away from those frustratingly cheesy Babysitter’s Club/Sweet Valley Twins types of reintroduction/recap. You know what I’m talking about. ↩