ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Book Review: Cold Magic (Book 1 of the Spiritwalker Trilogy) by Kate Elliott

Updated on June 12, 2012

I was really hesitant to start reading "Cold Magic" (Book 1 of the "Spiritwalker" trilogy) by Kate Elliott. I tried picking up Kate Elliott's "Crown of Stars" series several years ago and felt zero connection with it. I couldn't even bring myself to read more than 50 pages. Since then, no matter how much her "Crossroads" trilogy with its beautiful covers and fantastic storyline beckoned to me, I refused to touch another Kate Elliott book. After scouring the local library for new and interesting books to read, I noticed "Cold Magic" , prominently displayed with other adult fantasy and science fiction books. The cover mesmerized me with the picture of the heroine (or her cousin?) in the forefront, framed with the outline of a gear and machinery in the back along with the phrase "When Science and Magic Collide ̶ it is the Innocent who will Die".

I love steampunk - I love the idea of science woven into magic and fantasy. They're such contrasting elements that I can't help but be intrigued. Needless to say, my affinity for steampunk overcame my wariness of Kate Elliott, and I brought the book home. I then proceeded to curl up with a cup of tea, take a deep breath, and plunge into Kate Elliott's self-described "Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency novel with airships, Phoenician spies, and the intelligent descendants of troodons". Immediately, I was hooked. So hooked, in fact, that even as I write this review, I am impatiently tapping my foot, ready to begin reading the second book in the series, "Cold Fire". But I digress. You're more interested in my review.


"Cold Magic" is, at its heart, an alternate historical fantasy based very loosely on Europe (or "Europa") of the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution. The culture is influenced heavily by a mixture of ancient Celtic customs and African magic. Society is split into factions of those who support the current aristocratic supremacy of the magical "Cold Mages" who bring Winter's breath in their wake, and the industrialists, who support technological reform, machinery, and airships designed with ideas brought from Amerike across the Atlantic. Overseeing it all is the indifferent ruling monarchy of princes and aristocrats.

The story begins with the heroine, Cat (short for Catherine), and her cousin Bee (short for Beatrice) as they attend college to learn the workings of science and the wonders of change. As different as their personalities are, they share everything together, and their kinship remains strong throughout the book, even as circumstances strain and challenge their bond, which would likely break if not for their complete faith in each other. The reader discovers early on that both Cat and Bee have their own not-so-human skills and talents that fuel their deep inner strength and give them a rather large capacity for mischief .

Without warning, Cat is torn from the life she's always known and forced to marry a proud and arrogant cold mage to fulfill a contract her aunt and uncle made long ago. As they are chased by rioting common folk and thrust into magical circumstances, Cat discovers that she is not who she always believed herself to be. Her loyalties are challenged and she finds herself lost as she pieces together her past and her identity while meeting a variety of colorful characters along the way. Through all of this, various powerful forces are amassing to find Cat and kill her if they can, but a surviving cat always lands on her feet...

My Thoughts

First and foremost, I love Kate Elliott's prose and her writing style. I love how she paints such vivid and beautiful images with her words without inundating me with too many boring details (as many other fantasy authors often do..*cough* George R. R. Martin *cough*). The pacing of the book is not overly fast, but steady enough that the setting unrolls before my imagination and I understand the characters' feelings and experiences even as I am reading.

Cat is an extremely believable character, and her strength and loyalty is admirable. I understand all of her actions and feelings simply because her story is built up in such a way that I understand who she is as a person. Even Andevai, the sometimes abhorrent cold mage, and sometimes romantic interest, is believable from Cat's eyes as an enemy to be feared who is both frustrating and attractive. Above all, as mentioned previously, the power of the relationship between Cat and Bee emphasizes the theme of loyalty and kinship in the book, even when things are not as they seem.

My only concern with the book is that so many questions are left unanswered. Who is the shadowy character in the beginning who slips into the window? Why the odd inconsistency in Uncle Barahal-Hussein's character? Who is Amadou and what does he have to do with the bigger picture? I can't ask more without spoiling you overly much concerning the story. I'm hoping these questions and more will be answered more thoroughly in the remaining books of the trilogy.


  • Plot: 4/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Pacing: 3.5/5
  • Writing style: 5/5
  • Overall: 4.375/5

Would I recommend this book to a friend? Yes, absolutely.

What age group would I recommend this book for? 14 and up - Although younger children would be able to read it (there is nothing inappropriate), they would likely not understand some of the symbolism and historical references in the book.


Overall, Cold Magic was a pleasant surprise for me, especially as I gritted my teeth in the beginning, fearing it would be overly wordy and uninteresting as some of Kate Elliott's previous books have been. I haven't enjoyed an adult epic fantasy book this much since the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey. For those who love a good epic fantasy and are looking for a fantastical read, I highly recommend Cold Magic and the Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliott.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)