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Book Review: Cold Fire (Book 2 of the Spiritwalker Trilogy) by Kate Elliott

Updated on June 22, 2012

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.

My Thoughts

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.


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.


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    • Mei Eden profile image

      Mei Eden 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Hi Georgie: I'm glad I was able to convince you to check out the series!! Thanks for dropping by. :)

    • Georgie Lowery profile image

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      Thank you for this review, I put the series on my wishlist!

    • Mei Eden profile image

      Mei Eden 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Thanks Rebecca! I really hope you enjoy the series if you decide to check it out. :) I certainly loved it. Thanks for dropping by and checking out the review!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Cool! I am looking for some Summer reading and this sound perfect.Thanks for a really great book review. Sharing!

    • Mei Eden profile image

      Mei Eden 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Thanks for leaving a comment though Teylina! I'm glad I was able to give you enough in my review for you to make an informed decision. :)

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 5 years ago

      Not for me, maybe, but that's the beauty of decent/good reviews. You learn enough to know whether you want to get into it or not, and lots of popular books now are turn-offs for me--but I never know. Thanks for the review. Definitely and up useful and interesting.

    • Mei Eden profile image

      Mei Eden 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Thanks billybuc! I definitely appreciate your support. Your hubs have been a huge motivator and inspiration to me. :)

      Perhaps I should have added a disclaimer to this review and the previous one in the series - I agree that unless you already enjoy alternate historical fantasy, you may not actually like this book. But I do, and therefore I loved it!

      Thanks again for commenting, as always.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I will tell Bev about this book; it doesn't look like my type of book but I think Bev would like it. I just wanted to support you and stop by with a comment. I appreciate your support and your kind words so you get me as a supporter in return.