“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.
I saw a reference to this book elsewhere as “ice punk”. I like it, that’s just what it is. But, I originally came by this book through our Tricia. She read a review of it and thought I might like it. Once again, she knows me. Steam punk, magic, Ice Age, Industrial Revolution, adventure, heroine, . . .
Cold Magic is set in an alternate reality where there is an ongoing Ice Age. In this world, magic is a part of reality, it is known and used in everyday circumstances, but not everyone has the talent. We discover this world and deeper magics with our heroine, as she has lived a sheltered life until now, without knowing much of magic. A theme here is science vs magic. It is the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
This tale does start *very* slowly. It is the first in a planned series, so there is the whole world-building slowing it down. And it is a whole world. For all that, it is still very slow starting.
This world is set in an alternate history. It gets a bit dense, or at least it made me feel dense at times as I didn’t get all the references. I paid attention in History class but they can be a bit obscure. You don’t have to get them all to follow or get the story but I feel it would have added another dimension.
Cat is a great character. She is strong, flawed and enjoyable. Cat is young but it is not a YA tale although I would probably suggest it to a late teen girl as a strong character. The other characters are not drawn in as much depth but you do feel you get a good sense of them. The characters grow and mature during the course of the tale in believable ways. It all feels true to what we know of them.
It is flawed in that it does some telling rather than showing–characters tell each other very basic things, explaining things to each other that should be known. Obviously the author is just telling us, as readers. There are no big neon signs or red flags telegraphing what’s coming but subtle clues you realize after, so that’s a plus.
This story can be a bit confusing with an entirely new world and the only familiar references are ancient history and obscure bits, and some elements are brought back into the story after quite some time away. Once I got past all that, I fell into the story and quite liked it. I did enjoy it, I do like the world. I am interested in who the characters are and what happens to them. So, I will be back for the rest of the series.
I give it a 3 rating, probably a 3.5 and I expect the rest of the series to be higher.