Spiritwalker, Book 1
Author: Kate Elliott
Source: Orbit for review
Description from Goodreads:
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.
“I was not a bard or a djeli or an historian or a scribe and I was certainly not a sage, but that didn't mean I wasn't curious…”
Young Cat Barahal thinks she understands the world she lives in and her place in it, but in fact she is merely poised, unaware, on the brink of shattering events. Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood, betrayal and old feuds, she will be forced to make an unexpected and perilous journey in order to discover the truth, not just about her own family but about an ancient secret lying at the heart of her world.
Cat and her cousin 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?
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.
First Sentence: "The history of the world begins in ice, and it will end in ice."
Oh, epic fantasy. I really shouldn't be reading any of it while trying to complete my massive book challenge, because every time I read one I lose ground. Still, I keep reading them, because I like them. Cold Magic proved to be especially slow, because it took me so long to really get into it. The writing and story was always good, but not enough to have me flipping the pages at high speed.
The world building, so far as I understand it, is impressive. Unfortunately, much of it I didn't understand, largely the parts that intrigued me the most, the alternate history aspects. Usually, I don't have major comprehension issues with books, but I really could not piece together a timeline of what events happened when and how the history differed. Of course, it doesn't help that this takes place in regions and discusses times I didn't study much.
The magic, though, made much more sense and was, pardon the pun, very cool. I suspect that later books might explain how the cold magic came into being, because that seems to be a real mystery, and it's so odd, since there doesn't seem to be any other magic on the earthly plane. The spiritual plane is so weird, and I hope there will be more exploration of it; I think there will be so that we can meet Cat's relatives.
Part of why the book was slow for so long was that it lacked direction. While most epic fantasy revolves around a quest, this one does not. Thing happen, but they're not aimed toward a particular goal until a few hundred pages in. Once we learn what's going on, the pace picked up.
As for the characters, I like Cat the best. I never took to her cousin and best friend, Bee, though I couldn't really say why, since she is sweet to Cat. Early on, Cat, as the oldest daughter of the Hassi Barahals is forced to wed a cold mage, Andevai. She goes along with it to protect her cousin and family, though she would rather not marry an utter stranger, and a cold one at that. Despite his handsomeness, Cat wants pretty much nothing to do with him and snarks at him constantly. She berates him with questions, calls him out when he acts like a jerk, and generally doesn't act like so many young heroines do when confronted with a handsome face.
My very favorite thing about Cat? How much she eats. This girl can pack food away. You know how a lot of books forget about basic human needs like eating to focus on other things? Well, Elliott doesn't do that. Cat has a seriously healthy appetite, and after so many books about skinny, waifish, model-thin heroines, that was so refreshing. She's clearly a girl after my own heart.
Surely, you will not be surprised to learn that there is a sort of romance building between Cat and Andevai. They have a nice slow burn, which grows from mutual disdain (totally my favorite romance pattern thanks to P&P). I am totally rooting for them, though I do not want them to rush together.
In the last 200 pages or so, I was much more entranced by the story. The change came about the time Rory entered the scene. He's hilarious and I adore him. Though this one was slow-going and I can't say I loved it, I have higher hopes for the second book Cold Fire, which is a good thing since it's in my tbr pile.
Favorite Quote: "Idly, I flipped through the ledger's pages, for I cannot resist a book set before me no matter its kind. Writing draws my eye; I am impelled as by sorcery to read even if it is an accountant's list or a solicitor's instructions or, as here, nothing more than a record of traveler who have passed through this inn."