Book Review: Cold Fire (Book 2 of the Spiritwalker Trilogy) by Kate Elliott
It's rare when a sequel outshines a strong introductory book in a trilogy, but "Cold Fire" (Book 2 in "The Spiritwalker Trilogy") by Kate Elliott manages to do just that. I borrowed both "Cold Magic" and "Cold Fire" from my local library, and after reading the second book, drove straight to the bookstore to buy copies for myself. This is definitely one of those series that makes you want to read and re-read just to make sure you catch all of the details that made it so amazing the first time through.
Disclaimer: This synopsis may contain very minor spoilers to the events of the first book in the trilogy, "Cold Magic".
"Cold Fire" by Kate Elliott begins where "Cold Magic" left off, with the protagonist, Cat, fleeing from the cold mages to safety with Bee and Rory. Unfortunately, as soon as they feel they might finally be safe, an unexpected stranger appears, and they are thrust into events out of their control. Cat finds herself bound to the spirit world against her will and spends the majority of the book trying to puzzle over how to save Bee from ultimate destruction. A charismatic overlord plots to take over Europa and is positive that Cat and Bee are the keys to his victory.
The entire setting of the story shifts from Europa to the Antilles and the Taino kingdom (i.e. the Caribbean islands), and Cat stumbles upon the industrial city of Expedition and a whole new cast of radical revolutionaries. She battles various challenges in the form of plagued zombies, handsome fire mages, and dangerous political dynamics in a society she is unfamiliar with.
Naturally, Cat re-encounters Vai, the arrogant and condescending cold mage from the first book. The two of them dance around each other throughout the book as she struggles to suppress her feelings for him in an attempt to focus on her priority to save Bee.
The story ends with a huge explosion of chaos that leaves the reader begging for the third and final book of the series, "Cold Steel", in rabid anticipation.
In my review of "Cold Magic", it is obvious that I am in love with the alternate world Kate Elliott has created for her characters. In "Cold Fire", I can't help but notice how much fun she has with the colorful environments, events and characters Cat encounters in the Caribbean islands. Some readers may feel that her descriptions are lengthy and slow down the pacing of the book. Personally, I love Kate Elliott's prose and detail. I'm definitely a visual reader, and she paints such vivid and beautiful pictures that I feel almost as if I am there with Cat in this amazing world.
Naturally, I continue to fall deeper in love with Cat, Vai, Bee, Rory, and the revolutionaries they meet along the way. Even the villains are interesting and worth exploring in their own right. How can I not root for dynamic and endearing people who are fighting against the oppression of an unjust government? Even so, as in real life, it is not always easy to tell whether character motivations are good or bad. I'm left reeling as characters surprise me with actions contrary to Cat's first impressions of them.
Cat and Vai remain at the forefront of the characters I have grown to love and care about. Of course, it could be because the inkling of romance hovering in the background of the first book blooms into the forefront and driving force of this one. I couldn't help but yell out, "Finally!" when my 2 favorite characters connected emotionally at last.
As in the first book, the relationship and true loyalty between Cat and Bee really shines in this book. I really enjoy the way the two girls care for and complement one another despite their differences. The only real gripe I have is in the way Kate Elliott handles Cat's romantic relationships (details in the spoiler area below), although perhaps this was her way of revealing that Cat, like most of us, is a flawed human being.
Some gripes I have involve Cat's intimate relationships with certain characters. Cat seems to have no problems whatsoever becoming intimate with James Drake. I know she is supposedly "drunk", but even when she is not so drunk, she has sex with him a second time. She spends so much time fervently defending the virtue of the Kena'ani women throughout both books, and then she goes and proves herself wrong.
On the other hand, the entire time, she keeps her distance from Vai and seems to string him along, not admitting to herself that he loves her even though he makes it painfully obvious to EVERYONE (all the other characters and the reader). For a smart girl, she seems remarkably stupid when it comes to Vai.
(END SPOILER ALERT)
The plot becomes deeper in this second book as we are introduced to the fire mages and an up-close and personal account of the salt plague briefly mentioned in the first book. I like that some of Cat's mysterious background and identity are revealed as well. I hate when books drag out mysteries until the very end. When authors do that, I lose interest quickly, so this was refreshing.
I have heard some reviewers complain about a slower pacing in this book as compared to the first one. This actually surprises me. The entire time I was reading, I kept selfishly wanting Kate Elliott to slow down so I could savor the experience more. The dialogue is witty and Cat is thrown from one dangerous situation to the next. I felt the pacing was perfect. Although I do agree that it is uneven. The first 100 pages of the book are notably slower than the middle and second half of the book. I feel that this is a characteristic of Kate Elliott as an author though. She has a tendency to build up a situation before diving into it.
- Plot: 5/5
- Characters: 4/5
- Pacing: 4/5
- Writing style: 5/5
- Overall: 4.5/5
Would I recommend this book to a friend? Yes, absolutely.
What age group would I recommend this book for? 14 and up (There is reference to sex in this book).
Overall, "Cold Fire" was a highly satisfactory read with plenty of adventure, challenge, romance, and emotion to keep me constantly reading and unable to put the book down. I am really anticipating "Cold Steel", the final book in the trilogy, and am extremely sad that I have to wait all the way until 2013 until it is published. This trilogy is definitely one of my all time favorites in the historical fantasy genre.
In the meantime, for other readers of alternate historical fantasy, I also highly recommend the "Kushiel" series by Jacqueline Carey or Naomi Novik's "Temeraire" series.