Cold Fire is the second book in the Spiritwalker trilogy by Kate Elliott, following Cold Magic. The next book in the series will be Cold Steel. As far as I know, it does not yet have an official release date.
Since this is the second book in a series, there will be spoilers for the first book. If you’re interested in reading about the series starting from the beginning, here’s my Cold Magic review. While I did find that one rather enjoyable, I actually found the second volume better and it ended up being one of my very favorite books in 2011, mainly because of its characters and the dialogue. There is nothing I didn’t love about Cold Fire.
Not knowing where else to turn when pursued by cold mages, Cat and Bee went to the radicals at the law offices of Godwik and Clutch. Unfortunately for them, their visit coincided with one from the infamous General Camjiata, who just escaped from prison and is also being pursued. However, Camjiata is rather happy to see both Bee and Cat for his wife had prophesied that he would need Bee, who also walks the dreams of dragons, and that she would also lead him to Tara Bell’s daughter, Cat – who will make a choice that will affect the course of the war. Camjiata is once again determined to reunite all the different factions of Europa into an empire ruled by himself and thinks both Cat and Bee would be valuable assets for his cause.
The two cousins are reluctant to join the cause of the man known as the Iberian Monster and are unsure of what to do next or who to trust. They are also warned that the attention of the mage houses and General Camjiata may be the least of Bee’s concerns since women who walk the dreams of dragons tend to die gruesome deaths at the hands of the Wild Hunt. Will the two be able to save Bee and resist capture or being used as pawns by the powerful?
Cold Fire took me completely by surprise when it ended up being one of my absolute favorite books read in 2011. While I rather enjoyed the first book in the Spiritwalker series, it did take a little while to get going. By the second half, it had completely hooked me and I’m happy to say that this trend continued throughout the entirety of Cold Fire, which was riveting from start to finish. It was a fantastic middle volume, and I found it better both because there was a lot of emphasis on the characters and dialogue and because the first volume had already done much of the setup (and gotten the infodumping out of the way). Since I was already familiar with the setting and characters, I was just able to immerse myself in this wonderful book with so many memorable elements – the main characters, the writing and Cat’s narrative voice, the often humorous dialogue and situations, the revelations about mysterious subjects, more of the world and various cultures, the depiction of the revolution, the romance, everything.
While there was a lot that was done well in this book, what really made it excellent was the characters, their relationships, and the dialogue. Cat as a narrator has a lively and unique narrative voice brimming with personality and a vibrant sense of humor. The way she words her thoughts and presents events around her to us is particularly striking. For example, here’s how she describes the confrontation between a cold mage and a fire mage:
The history of the world begins in ice, and it will end in ice. So sing the Celtic bards and the Mande djeliw of the north. The Roman historians, on the other hand, claimed that fire will consume us in the end.
Ice, or fire? As the two men faced down, I had a sudden and terrible premonition I was about to find out. [pp. 33]
As in the first book, both Cat’s voice and character remain a major strength of the novel. She is a realistically done character who strikes a great balance between being tough and being human. She can wield a sword and she has some special abilities, but she’s not invincible or the type to jump into a fight when it’s not necessary. She has hopes, dreams, a good and loyal heart, and devotion to those around her, but she also can and does make mistakes. Also, Cat can be quite funny (especially when drunk).
Likewise, the people surrounding Cat and their relationships with her are amazing, particularly as so much personality shines through their conversations with each other. Bee and her cousin Cat are best friends and they have this wonderfully close relationship. They tease each other mercilessly, but they are also always there for each other and each would do anything for the other. It’s refreshing to read about such a close friendship, and Bee comes alive with her bubbly personality that she often uses to cover up a hidden motive. She has a greater awareness of her surroundings and a much more devious mind than it would appear on the surface!
Although I did love the friendship and the little bits with Cat’s brother Rory, whose naivete about the human world can be quite charming, Cat’s relationship with Vai was the highlight. In the previous book, Cat and Vai were forced into a magically binding marriage where Cat had to deal with his vain and arrogant ways. At the end of the first book, it’s revealed that despite his actions and the fact that he tried to kill her when commanded to, Vai has been crazy about Cat from the moment he saw her. In spite of that, it’s not a love-at-first-sight relationship since Cat certainly finds Vai handsome but also thinks he invented his feelings for her to deal with being forced to marry her. After all, he doesn’t even know her. Cat doesn’t like being bound by a relationship in a way that’s not on her own terms, and as more is revealed, it turns out there is even more that binds her.
There is a heavy emphasis on the two of them and Vai’s attempts to win Cat in this book, and every conversation between the two is just phenomenal. They bicker and banter and it is at times quite hilarious.
At the end of the previous book, it’s obvious Vai is a more complex character than he initially appeared and in this one he becomes much more likable. He’s still vain and arrogant, but he’s also redeemed himself from his previous actions. Now he’s got a great balance of respectable qualities and roguishness since he respects Cat but he’s also not perfect or so good he is dull. I just loved his response when he was asked about whether or not he’d tamed Cat yet:
“Tamed her? Why would you want to tame a woman who defied the mansa with only her wits and her determination to live?” [pp. 438]
Both Cat and Vai’s characters are given more complexity in this book since they both have reasons and coping mechanisms they learned that make them act the way they do.
The characterization and dialogue was what shone in this book for me, and I think some who want to see more forward momentum with the storyline might not be quite as taken with it as I was. It does reveal more about some of the central mysteries, like Cat’s father, General Camjiata, the Spirit World, and more about Cat’s parents. However, it is in some ways different since the focus is outside of Europa with most of it taking place in the Caribbean. It expanded the world and continues to have a wonderful blend of cultural diversity, but those who wanted to spend more time with the cold mages and the Romans may be disappointed. However, it does tie in with General Camjiata’s attempts at expansion and some glimpses at the revolution many of the common people are joining in order to remove the chains that bind them to others who are considered “superior.” Freedom and choosing for oneself are major themes in this book.
It does end on a cliffhanger, which may not be unexpected considering the end of the previous book.
Cold Fire exceeded my expectations in every way and is a new favorite book, mainly because of its characters with strong personalities, well-written dialogue, and an exciting romance. All of the major characters came alive, especially Cat who has a wonderful narrative voice. Those who want to see more of the same parts of the world as the first book may feel differently, but Cold Fire was a rarity for me – not only did I love it, but I can’t imagine changing a single word of it because it worked completely.
My Rating: 10/10
Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.
Bonus Content (Chapter 31.5 of Cold Fire and a short story about Rory that coincides with part of Cold Magic)
Other Reviews of Cold Fire: