Several years ago, I read this author’s Crossroads trilogy, beginning with Spirit Gate. My memory of it is really fuzzy, but I remember it as being a fairly complex story, with multiple points-of-view and storylines. I also remember that I really enjoyed it, and I’ve wanted to try some of her other books.
This book was a little different from what I expected based on my fuzzy memory of Crossroads. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but there were some aspects of the writing that seemed amateur to me, and I also felt like the story was written for a younger audience. The “younger audience” aspect probably would have been less of an issue for me if I hadn’t expected something more adult, and it was also partly explained by the author’s Acknowledgments at the end of the book. As it turns out, she had collaborated on the story with her three children who were in high school at the time. This doesn’t explain some of my complaints with the writing, though, since she did all of the writing herself. I briefly wondered if this book was one of her earlier works, but it was in fact published a little bit later than the final Crossroads book.
The setting is kind of interesting, set in an odd alternate version of our world in which there are both mages and an industrial revolution. I’m going to be vague about the story line, because it’s a bit of a slow build-up and I don’t want to spoil any surprises. Cold Magic is told from the first-person perspective of Cat, a nineteen-year-old girl whose parents were killed in an accident when she was six. She’s been raised, and well-treated, in the home of her aunt and uncle where she has a great relationship with her similarly-aged cousin, Bee. Cat has some special abilities, and one of her only memories of her mother is her warning Cat not to ever tell anybody what she can do. So there’s a bit of a mystery about Cat’s past, but mostly she just lives her life as a normal girl. Until everything changes, of course. :) One night a visitor shows up at Cat’s home to demand that a certain bargain be upheld.
One of the main reasons I thought this was an earlier work was because the author used dialogue clumsily, particularly in the beginning, to convey background information. The dialogue was usually well-written and interesting, but there were several passages that completely dragged me out of the story because it was just too obvious. For example, at one point Cat is pretty much lectured by Bee on her own life history. People just don’t talk like that. When they have shared stories and histories, they use shorthand. They would say, “Remember that time in the elevator?” as opposed to, “Remember that time in the elevator when [long monologue about a story both parties already know]?”.
Another one of my complaints is about the romance. Fortunately it’s a bit sparse and doesn’t overwhelm the story, but I did think it was very obvious from the beginning how the relationship would develop. It was also pretty unrealistic, such as the random “oh wow, look at those lips, I really want to kiss him” (I’m paraphrasing!) thoughts at absolutely ridiculous moments. The friendship between Cat and Bee, on the other hand, was very well done. I also really enjoyed the character of Rory and his interaction with Cat.
The story has a little bit of repetitiveness and a few excessively coincidental occurrences, but mostly I did enjoy the story. We’re given several questions at the beginning and then the answers are slowly revealed while giving us more questions along the way, and I enjoyed speculating about the answers. This is the first book in a trilogy, so it doesn’t wrap up all of the story lines, but we do get answers to some of the major questions by the end. There’s an interesting, if not terribly surprising, twist near the end that sets the stage for the next book and I look forward to seeing what will happen next. I’m giving this 3.5 stars on BookLikes, but rounding up to 4 on Goodreads.