Cold Magic (Spiritwalker #1) by Kate Elliott
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.
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?
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Kate Elliott rocks my socks. I had so much trouble stepping away from Cold Magic, even for the most essential things like sleep and school, because I was absolutely captivated by Cat and Bee’s story, though they are separated early in the novel, when a Cold Mage comes to claim Cat as his wife, in accordance with a secret pact the cousins know nothing about, leaving the focus primarily on Cat.
Cat is an interesting protagonist. Although she’s only 20, Cat is remarkably level-headed and resourceful in the face of a whirlwind of change — taken from her home, married to a stranger and Cold Mage, realizing the marriage had been secretly contracted for years, forced to adapt to a new life and confront her realizations about her old life. As a reader, I was caught up in her confusion and desperate to figure out what was going to happen. Her actions and reactions to events are very real and her immersion in new cultures and the differences between those cultures and her life in the city of Adurnam are so vividly described, as is the rest of the world building. Kate Elliott has done a commendable job of creating an alternate history in which the Roman Empire lasted long after it did in real life, using Latin names for European countries and cities, and maintaining a Roman social order and titles, adding a lot of flavour to the novel.
Cat’s husband, Andevai, is not as well developed, though you learn a lot about his origins over the course of the novel. At first, I really didn’t like him but he becomes more interesting over time, as you learn more about him and come to understand the difficulties in his life. Bee, in contrast, has a lot more depth, though it might be my bias since she’s such an endearing character.
Cat and Bee’s gifts are really neat and only somewhat explored in Cold Magic, though Cat’s family history is nicely discussed in the novel. While it sort of explains Cat’s abilities, Bee’s gifts are still a giant mystery, and I can’t wait to find out more. I also have questions about the powers that the Cold Mages have, since there are hints about them but not everything is explained, since the novel is told from Cat’s perspective. There are so many unexpected reveals in the book and it’s left me dying to know what’s going to happen next, particularly given some of the developments in the final chapters, which I won’t discuss here since it’s spoiler city. All I’ll say is that it’s going to be very, very hard for me to wait until September to get the second book in the trilogy, Cold Fire.