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Dragons dream. Mages scheme. Innocents die.
This book is a fantastic alternative 19th century steampunk novel by Kate Elliott.
The first few chapters are dense with world-building details of the alternative history e.g. special vocabulary. Ice sheets cover Scandinavia and Scotland. The lower sea level leaves a land bridge between alt- Great Britain and France.
Soon, a close family relationship between two cousins, Bee and Cat, is revealed. Cat is obsessed with learning the truth about her father – which may be contained in his journals.
I enjoyed the breathless characterisation, constant squabbling and reconciling, which becomes poignant as fate unfolds. Promised in marriage to a member of the powerful mysterious Cold Mages, before birth, one of the cousins is cruelly torn away (without warning) from the life she knew.
It’s okay to be a Magical Girl in a Magical World but… when the story took a turn into the spirit world I found the plot formulaic.
The text repeats the history of the Phoenicians too often without seeming to add anything (yes it’s plausible that traumatised Cat would go back to her childhood stories but the narrator could elide repetitions “once again, she repeated to the djeliw the history of her people.”) This is a 500-page book in a series. Did the author or the editor try to save readers from verbosity?
The forced-marriage/anti-romance relationship annoys me – I’m exasperated by the possible (hinted?) future romance between Cat and the naive young Cold Mage (who whenever an opportunity arrises to think of others, drops the ball), the forced husband.
I don’t understand (magical girl/spirit of lightness?!) why Cat doesn’t even wish him harm when she has opportunities to claw or kill him (even after he humiliates and does violence to her, the life of a Romantic Girl!). Scenes in the husband’s home village show a more gentle side of his character. There are possible hints that practising Cold Magic is addictive and self-destructive.
Mercy! After the long boring spiritual journey, a welcome return to diverse breathless adventures. The girls comment on the Romantic plot wryly.
On balance, the prideful on/off hot/cold relationship between Cat and the Cold Mage adds welcome twists to the plot.
The ending is rather convenient, some family secrets are revealed, and portentous words are spoken. Judgement if the cliffhanger is profoundly symmetrical or a cheap stunt awaits my examination of the second book in the Spirit Walker trilogy, Cold Fire.
Rating: 7/10. I could have read hundreds of pages of adventures in one sitting. The spiritual middle took a long time to say a little.
The edition of Cold Magic I read was a paperback with ISBN 9781841498812.
Certain scenes in which Magical Girls were being chased but somehow found time to make a camouflaged pit trap, or pick a lock, stretched dramatic license.
In an acknowledgements section after the end, the author confesses to
assisting children the assistance of children with the work. Nevertheless she insists that any melodrama is entirely her own responsibility.