Cold Magic by Kate Elliott is the first in the Spiritwalker trilogy and tells the story of Cat Hassi Barahal as she comes to terms with the strange new path her life is taking her and the new powers she acquires. Cold Magic has been on my TBR list for some time. I’d picked it up several months back when it was on special offer on Kindle for $1.99, but never got round to reading it. It moved up the list a few weeks ago when I read an intriguing article on the magic system, yet it never quite made it to the top. Finally a couple of weeks ago, Audible released it as an audiobook. This is the first of the books to be released on Audible, so I picked it up to listen to during my nightshifts and it finally made it to the top of the list. I’m very glad it did!
What I liked
Interesting themes. Elliott explores some interesting themes in this novel. One of the major ones is magic vs technology. The society in which Cat lives is beginning to make progress with industrialisation and this engenders conflict with the powerful Mage Houses, the magic wielders. It is notable that the brunt of the Cold Mages’ destructive power is directed at symbols of industry and innovation – an airship and a factory. I look forward to seeing where this goes in the subsequent books
Another interesting theme is that of family and betrayal. Cat feels deeply betrayed by the actions of her uncle and aunt as does Andevai’s family to some extent by his changed attitude since his becoming a Cold Mage.
Identity is another interesting theme explored in the series. Cat strongly identifies with the Hassi Barahals who raised her, but after what she perceives as their betrayal she is no longer certain about who she is, especially given the new powers she discovers. When she meets her half brother Rory, her identity is thrown into even more confusion. This theme is even more apparent in the character of Andevai who is torn between his identity as a member of a poor but loving family and his status as a Cold Mage. It appears he is struggling to fit in with either community.
The worldbuilding. Ms Elliott’s blog is entitled “I make up worlds” and it’s clear this is something she very much enjoys. The worldbuilding in Cold Magic is excellent. I enjoyed the alternative history variation of our world that she has created. I especially enjoyed the intelligent trolls – one of whom is a solicitor!
I understand one of the lynchpins of the series is intended to be the relationship between Cat and her cousin Bee, whom she loves like a sister. It’s clear that they are very close, and protecting each other is a major motivation for the two. However, the cousins don’t spend much time together in this book so it doesn’t come across as strongly as it might. I suspect this may be more prominent in the next two books.
The narration. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Charlotte Parry. A poor or mediocre narrator adds little to a book other than saving you the trouble of reading it for yourself, offering little more than the Kindle’s robotic text to speech. A great narrator, on the other hand, really brings the characters to life. Ms Parry is of the second variety. It was easy to tell which character was speaking by the voice she used, and she picked up the stage directions perfectly (he said coldly, for example). Here is a sample.
[mp3j track=”http://samples.audible.com/bk/reco/007080/bk_reco_007080_sample.mp3″ volslider=”y” title = “Cold Magic”]
What I didn’t like
The overall story arc. At this point, I’m not entirely certain what our protagonist’s goals are other than self preservation and what the consequences might be if she fails to achieve them. I hope this is clarified in the subsequent books.
All in all, I very much enjoyed Cold Magic and gave it four stars out of five