REVIEW: Cold Fire

Kate Elliott
Cold Fire (Spiritwalker #2)
Orbit
ISBN-10: 1841498831
ISBN-13: 978- 1841498836
Fantasy/steampunk/icepunk
September 26, 2011

Back cover blurb:

Cat Barahal and her beloved cousin Bee think they have reached a safe place to shelter. But the Cold Mages who are conspiring to take them prisoner are closing in. The warlord who hopes to conquer all Europa is convinced their destiny is to aid him, whether they want to or not. And the man Cat was forced to marry is back, as vainly arrogant and annoyingly handsome as ever.

Worst of all, as Hallows’ Night approaches, powers hidden deep within the spirit world are rising. Cat must seek allies against these threats and figure out who to trust, for if she makes the wrong choices, she’ll lose everything.

Only one thing is certain. When Hallows’ Night comes the Wild Hunt will ride – and it feeds on mortal blood.

I’m so incredibly late in officially squeeing over this book, and I have no one or nothing to blame but myself. Hell, I managed to get my copy prior to release – and finished it before then, too. At least one positive remains when you shovel aside my laziness around this place lately – I’m still one hundred percent sure that I loved this book. Pretty much as much as I loved the first one, Cold Magic.

Maybe I just felt confident that the awesome experience that’s been this series so far would stick with me. Cuz it so did! In the interest of total honesty, the first chapter was a little slow, but I didn’t realize till later that this was due to it being how the previous book ended. Apparently it was repeated to catch the reader up, which is fine once I realized it after the fact. Until then, though, I was a little bit worried book two wasn’t going to do it for me. Once it gets past that catching-up part, though, it was all smooth sailing for this reader.

Cat and her cousin Bee are on the run from cold mages, including Cat’s cold mage husband, Andevai. They hope to find shelter with a group of troll lawyers, part of a group of radicals that might sympathize with their plight. In the midst of this meeting, the girls meet Camjiata, an enterprising exiled general of sorts who’s made it his life’s mission to unite the world under one rule – himself, of course. He tried once before, but was defeated. He wants Cat and Be to join with him in his quest, for he believes that Cat is the one who will effect the outcome of the coming war the most. He also reveals Bee’s most urgent plight, that because she “walks the dreams of dragons”, she’s in grave danger from the Wild Hunt, which rides once a year to dismember those of her kind. The girls are threatened and corralled into one plot after another, and it makes for a thrilling read the entire way through.

I’m not normally one for political intrigue. I just don’t usually have the patience for it, for I find it often drags down the tone of the entire book with what is often, frankly, boring-as-hell nonsense. The sequence of events that the political intrigue is woven into in Cold Fire made for a much more well-played book. I like books that keep me on my toes and guessing. Nothing annoys me more than to guess too far ahead of time what’s going on, who’s playing who and how, etc.  I pretty much detest thins that are blatantly told to the reader. It bores us, precious. Nothing of the sort happened in this one, and I enjoyed being led around many an interesting scene, until just as with book one, I was delighted/dismayed/saddened/elated or whatever emotion was necessary at the time. Elliott once again did a superb job keeping everything tied together and me wondering what would happen next. This made for a very hard book to put down, as in many a late night reading. That urge to read late doesn’t happen to me very often.

The character development is superb. There’s so much for Cat to discover as she traverses the wild lands of the fae, the tropics and her icy Europa homelands. She changes a lot in this book alone, on her guard constantly, yet forced to come to some startling and heart-wrenching realizations. She has to learn to take risks, especially where her husband is concerned. Sh and Vai get plenty of page-time this go around, and I loved it. I love how I loathed him in book one, yet slowly, as Cat did, melted to him this time. You’ll have to have read book one to fully appreciate his behavior this time, but it’s entirely worth the page time to get there. So there’s romance, and the romance is satisfying, but even I, who grew to love Vai as a character, had to wonder how things would really turn out for them.

The worldbuilding is fantastic, but I’m never going to be able to do it justice (my review for book one, linked above, gives a general overview). I certainly “get it” while I’m reading, but to try to explain it in this review, I’d probably fudge it to hell and back. But I’ll try. It continues solidly what book one started, and we learned there how Cat is somehow connected to the fae world, with her brother Rory still hanging in with her whenever he can. That fae world comes strongly into focus this time when Cat meets a Very Important Individual who I can’t really go into detail about lest I spoil it all for you. Let’s just say it has something to do with that Wild Hunt, and that something ain’t good. It complicates matters between her and just about everyone she comes into contact with, sometimes in amusing ways, sometimes not. The change of scenery from the cold climates of Europa to the balmy breezes of the island nations was wonderful – it’s always nice when one knows there’s a big, wide world in a book, that the author actually makes an effort to show it to the readers. From its politics, to its geography to its wide variety of people, Elliott has definitely got the worldbuilding solidly realized. As I’ve always said, when the characters are so well developed and the world they traverse is as well, gold, baby.

The girls are both manipulated, lied to and pushed around a lot in this book, while also discovering shocking things about themselves. I’ve always kept just as strongly in mind the review over at Dear Author (a really excellent review, BTW), when Jia remarks how unsatisfactory it was that Cat and Bee are so used by men in this installment. And I totally agree with her that they are – they are both at that proverbial eye of the storm (which is never calm, actually), with plenty of people ready to make use of them, their powers, influence, etc. At times it feels very disheartening for the two young women, and one might wonder if they’ll ever get ahead, if there will ever be some kind of empowerment for them. I think there will be. I think we see sparks of it in Cat especially, that she is getting fed up and won’t take it anymore (hello, she’s not afraid to use her sword and she’s getting quite good at punching arrogant men in the face). I feel she has grown into an immensely strong character, but that in order to become so, much of what she goes through is necessary to make her so. There has to be some catalyst, and Cat definitely gets plenty of catalysts in this book alone. I cannot wait to see her kick some serious ass in book three and am pretty confident she will. Good lord, I think I…trust that this will happen.

It took just a little while to get back on track with the series after having had the typical year between books, but in the end I feel as though I love this book as much as I did the first. Nothing is as sweet as the reward if a series second that carries out the awesomeness of its predecessor, and yet makes it so much better still. If this book was a pillow, it would be the most comfortable, softest one that I can just sink into without any discomfort, that makes me forget anything but what I’m reading. It is absorbing, a fountain of discovery and it is the reason I read. God, I love this series.

Rating: Five Perfect Scoops

Series order:

  • ColdMagic
  • Cold Fire
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5 comments

  1. As always, great review. I have you to thank for getting me in to this series (ft on your 2010 bestest).

    Agree that it was a lil difficult to get into but once I did, it rocked. And then I read it all over again. Just wonderful.

    Thank you once again for helping me discover it. :)

    • I’m so glad you’re still enjoying the series, too, Saffie! Gotta love that book love glow it gives. :D

  2. I am number three on the reserve list at the library. I am very much looking forward to this installment after reading your review and the one at DA.

  3. Pingback: Review of Cold Fire by Kate Elliott | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books

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