Science fiction and fantasy
by Kate ElliottCold Magic, Cat and her friends are in hiding in the city of Adurnam, a place of cold magic and magical bonds of ownership. Cat is trying to escape a marriage that would bind her to an arrogant young cold mage, and through that link to a Mage House that would have a hold over her. Her cousin Bee is sought after because she's a spiritwalker, with powers of prophecy that others want to control. With Cat's half-brother Rory they are fleeing into the hands of trolls and revolutionaries.
Cat, Rory and Bee must escape from those who would recapture them, and from other dangerous forces. But often in this adventure they don't know who to trust, and they run from one dangerous situation to another that's even worse. Cat has to contend with goblins, dragons, magic, riots, intrigue, politics, trolls, and deadly plagues, and she has to deal with all of that without knowing ally from enemy much of the time. She encounters James Drake, a handsome fire mage, whilst her estranged cold mage husband Andevai has her confused. So whilst there is a thread of romance it isn't clear from the start how it will pan out and who Cat will fall for.
Bee is hilariously disrespectful in situations where awe and reverence would have been expected. And Cat enters some very strange and terrifying places where she searches for her biological father, although she would rather not know him. It is an understatement to say that he complicates Cat's life, which was never easy to begin with. So this is a story with a little bit of every mood, hitting notes such as heart-warming sweetness, hilarity, and terror. Cat is often being watched, and as her choices narrow and the story draws to a climax things feel increasingly claustrophobic because wherever she turns she feels trapped between bad choices.
The trolls are interesting in this story - they're feathered, rather like descendants of dinosaurs, but they're also ostentatious dressers, sophisticated, and many of those we meet in this novel are employed as lawyers. Yet they also have a savage side. So they're not what you'd expect of the grunting troll stereotype.
Cold Fire is long, twisty, and a cracking good tale. Alliances, trust, and loyalties change with each revelation in this engrossing story, which the author has crafted so that with each twist the whole landscape changes and readers are left reassessing the characters and situations. The only constant certainty is the need to keep turning the pages.
10th March 2020
If you like this, try:The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan
In book one of the Moorehawke trilogy a royal family is in conflict with itself. How can Wynter protect the people she cares about?
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy