From one of the genre's finest writers comes a bold new epic fantasy in which science and magic are locked in a deadly struggle. 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 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?
©2010 Katrina Elliott (P)2013 Recorded Books
When reviewing books I try to be fair; I appreciate that not everyone will be looking for the same things in a book.
Cold Magic by Kate Elliott is the first in the Spiritwalker trilogy and tells the story of Cat Hassi Barahal as she comes to terms with the strange new path her life is taking her and the new powers she acquires. Cold Magic has been on my TBR list for some time. I’d picked it up several months back when it was on special offer on Kindle for $1.99, but never got round to reading it. It moved up the list a few weeks ago when I read an intriguing article on the magic system, yet it never quite made it to the top. Finally a couple of weeks ago, Audible released it as an audiobook. This is the first of the books to be released on Audible, so I picked it up to listen to during my nightshifts and it finally made it to the top of the list. I’m very glad it did!
What I liked
Interesting themes. Elliott explores some interesting themes in this novel. One of the major ones is magic vs technology. The society in which Cat lives is beginning to make progress with industrialisation and this engenders conflict with the powerful Mage Houses, the magic wielders. It is notable that the brunt of the Cold Mages’ destructive power is directed at symbols of industry and innovation – an airship and a factory. I look forward to seeing where this goes in the subsequent books
Another interesting theme is that of family and betrayal. Cat feels deeply betrayed by the actions of her uncle and aunt as does Andevai’s family to some extent by his changed attitude since his becoming a Cold Mage.
Identity is another interesting theme explored in the series. Cat strongly identifies with the Hassi Barahals who raised her, but after what she perceives as their betrayal she is no longer certain about who she is, especially given the new powers she discovers. When she meets her half brother Rory, her identity is thrown into even more confusion. This theme is even more apparent in the character of Andevai who is torn between his identity as a member of a poor but loving family and his status as a Cold Mage. It appears he is struggling to fit in with either community.
The worldbuilding. Ms Elliott’s blog is entitled “I make up worlds” and it’s clear this is something she very much enjoys. The worldbuilding in Cold Magic is excellent. I enjoyed the alternative history variation of our world that she has created. I especially enjoyed the intelligent trolls – one of whom is a solicitor!
I understand one of the lynchpins of the series is intended to be the relationship between Cat and her cousin Bee, whom she loves like a sister. It’s clear that they are very close, and protecting each other is a major motivation for the two. However, the cousins don’t spend much time together in this book so it doesn’t come across as strongly as it might. I suspect this may be more prominent in the next two books.
The narration. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Charlotte Parry. A poor or mediocre narrator adds little to a book other than saving you the trouble of reading it for yourself, offering little more than the Kindle’s robotic text to speech. A great narrator, on the other hand, really brings the characters to life. Ms Parry is of the second variety. It was easy to tell which character was speaking by the voice she used, and she picked up the stage directions perfectly (he said coldly, for example).
What I didn’t like
The overall story arc. At this point, I’m not entirely certain what our protagonist’s goals are other than self preservation and what the consequences might be if she fails to achieve them. I hope this is clarified in the subsequent books.
All in all, I very much enjoyed Cold Magic and gave it four stars out of five
Audiobooks make everything I do, fun!
Listening to this book is the most fun I've had in a long, long time! I was a little worried when it started out with two 19 year old school girls at an academy, but it quickly veered off from there and took on a very different aspect. To say I was up all night listening is not, I repeat, NOT an exaggeration!
There are great reviews at Amazon that give the gist of the plot, but I don't want to spoil a second of this book. If you love fantasy you will love this.
The best part is the rest of the trilogy is already written (and I'm assuming being prepared for audio right now), and a sequel set of books is already available on Amazon, so, yippee!
I'm now a fan of Kate Elliott's. A big one.
P.S. I'm not a big fan of YA (with very, very few exceptions), but I had been assured by the reviews at Amazon that this was not YA -- but even if it is, it's still the best book I've listened to this year!
Designer. Aviation Enthusiast. Fitness Instructor. Love books. Prefer long series with happy endings in mystery, comedy, fantasy, & romance.
The story is whimsical and easy to like but I don't think I would have finished it if I had read the print version. The author gives every character except the main one (Kathren) long old roman names that would be hard to identify with (especially since they are never nick named or shorted).
This is definitely not a teen or children's book, although the book doesn't cuss or have explicit content, it uses a lot of old or big words that are hard to catch as an adult because the narrator has such a thick and lisp-drawn accent. I love accents generally but I found my self getting lost listening to this tale. It is action packed, mysterious and a bit drawn. Don't mistake this criticism for disliking the book all together.. I've debated returning the book or trying to relisten to it someday. As you can see from my rating Overall the story is a good time waster and not completely deplorable. My guess is the narrator is still an intermediate-professional. She doesn't make you hate the story but doesn't draw you into it either. A bit more vocal variation might help.
There are a few narrators on audible that I love, Gabra Zacman is one who has never steered me wrong. She pulls you into even the worst-written tales.
Stories that I might compare this one to? It has the story-type of Maria V. Snyder's Touch of Power, The Hobbit. The writing style is not at all like those authors though. The writing style would be closer compared to Mercedes Lackey series. Big words, old names, hard to listen to (mostly her choice of narrators - Except Tales of 5 kingdoms... that series is addictive!), and jumpy.
So my recommendation for you is to try this book and if you don't like it return it. It's three sections for iPhone users, so will give you a nice long listen. This isn't a book that I hate or fell in love with. I'm not sure that I would continue on if this was a series, but its worth one listen.
Strong female lead, mild romance (oddly Stockholm). Love the geography and character physical descriptions. Goes out of the norm in description of trolls, very novel for them to be so bird like. Mention of goblins near the end w/no description :( some bits predictable but only portions that if otherwise would anger readers (ie character lives vs dies).
This author has written a lot of good books. The main character is a young woman who is a bit of a badass (and gets to be more so as the story continues). The world building is also fantastic--it's a world that combines steam punk, fantasy, medieval Europe and the Roman Empire, zombies, and technology-loving humanoid decedents of dinosaurs--and it is done amazingly well. And there are important characters that are not white Caucasian, which really needs to be done more often. Read all three books, they're great! Stupid that it costs so much on Audible, but you won't regret it.
She was really good, made the voices of different characters come to life.
Lifelong reader, with a strong preference for long, complex historicals and multi-book sagas (I've read, in their entirety, The Wheel of Time, all the currently available Diana Gabaldon, Naomi Novick, and Margaret George books, and love to draw comparisons from historic events to modern events.
I would have liked a handle. Something that made sense. This book went from one room to another with no transition, like walking through a furniture store and trying to make it all into one coherent home. It expected you to know a ton of backstory (seriously - I checked twice to make sure I hadn't gotten book 2 instead of 1). I have read a TON of long, alternative universe fantasy/sci-fi books - Outlander, Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, Mistborn, Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, etc. etc. This is a poor imitation of those books.
Nearly anything else
The narrator is great. She just needs better material.
Disappointment. I'm returning it. Very sad, as the premise looks decent and the reviews were good - I wonder if it's a 50 Shades/Twilight thing, where a fandom goes nuts without really analyzing it, or if the publisher/author is just sockpuppeting good reviews somehow.
More story less description. This is a case where everything except the fact that there are humans is totally made up. Which is ok but that means 10 hours of description and 4 hours of story. The ending was like ARE YOU KIDDING it was merely a set up for the next book. Disappointing and I love Diana Gabaldone so is was not the length of the story. I prefer long books but this one did not do it for me.
The characters are difficult to like the male lead is an ass and you are supposed to accept it because he is in a bad situation. But, heck that is no excuse for what he does and that makes it impossible to really get on his side. The female lead can not make up her mind which is annoying.plus her situation way worse then the male lead and it takes the whole book for him to figure that out.
She did the best she could with a weak story.
Boredom that was the problem I did feel disappointment but just because nothing got tied up it just got worse.
Less imagination about the scenery and beings and more story line.
my mind lives in the aether
Cold magic is definitely one of the best I've listened to, second only to "Red Rising" by Pierce Brown.
Most memorable moment - when Cat hears her uncle's explanation for his and his wife's actions and gives her two more of her father's journals.
I honestly can't pick a favorite because the narrator did such a great job on every character.
It had a couple of laugh out loud moments.
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