In attempt to get through the huge stack of books to review, I am going to do some “mini” reviews of some of these books using the book description instead of writing my own. (I put mini in quotes since it still ended up being about 1,000 words long in the end.)
Cold Steel is the concluding volume in Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy, following Cold Magic and Cold Fire. The author’s website describes this series as “an Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency fantasy adventure with airships, Phoenician spies, the intelligent descendents of troodons, and a dash of steampunk whose gas lamps can be easily doused by the touch of a powerful cold mage.” With a description like that, I had to read it—and I’m glad I did since it was every bit as wonderful as it sounded! Cold Magic started a bit slowly, but the second half drew me in; Cold Fire had me riveted from start to finish and remains my favorite of the three books. Like the first book, Cold Steel took awhile to get me interested in what was happening, but once it did get going, I found it thoroughly enjoyable.
Since this review does cover the final book in the trilogy, there will be spoilers for the first two books. If you want to remain unspoiled, you will not want to read the rest of this review.
Description of Cold Steel:
Trouble, treachery, and magic just won’t stop plaguing Cat Barahal. The Master of the Wild Hunt has stolen her husband Andevai. The ruler of the Taino kingdom blames her for his mother’s murder. The infamous General Camjiata insists she join his army to help defeat the cold mages who rule Europa. An enraged fire mage wants to kill her. And Cat, her cousin Bee, and her half-brother Rory, aren’t even back in Europa yet, where revolution is burning up the streets.
Revolutions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue.
Cat and Bee have their work cut out for them.
Cold Steel is a wonderful ending to an excellent trilogy that makes me simultaneously sad and happy that I’d never read any of Kate Elliott’s books before this series (sad because I’ve been missing out on books by an amazing author and happy because I now get to discover all her other books for the first time). The Spiritwalker trilogy contains many of the qualities that I love to see in a fantasy novel—a richly detailed, vivid world; well-developed characters with unique personalities and histories; and a first person narrator whose sparkling words bring the story to life. Books like these are why I read speculative fiction, and the three books in the Spiritwalker trilogy are keepers.
Initially, I was concerned that Cold Steel was not going to live up to my expectations. While there were some good moments and important occurrences in the first 100 – 150 pages, this part of the book was largely slow. Early parts of the book did contain a lot of infodump and discussions about what had gone on in the previous books with some travelogue and plans to rescue Vai from the Master of the Wild Hunt. Frankly, I was bored through much of this, but once Cat made it to Europa it started to become more interesting and soon I was once again excited to be reading about Cat’s adventures.
On the subject of Cat, her voice and character remain one of my favorite aspects in the final book. I love that she is a character one can root for without being unbelievably perfect. She is outspoken, loyal, brave, compassionate, and determined, but she also has a tendency to act before thinking. Because her father is the Master of the Wild Hunt, Cat has some unusual abilities, yet they do not make her so powerful that they solve all her problems. Furthermore, I love that Cat is supposed to be special and important to the course of fate without being the center of the world that all the other characters revolve around. Her cousin and closest friend Bee is also sought after for her ability to dream the future, and Bee has adventures of her own when she and Cat are separated and has an important role to play as a prominent speaker for the revolution. I think this story would have been every bit as fascinating were it focused on Bee instead of Cat.
Truly, I loved all the characters and how each had their own background, story, and personality. Each seemed to be crafted with care, making them seem more real than mere words on a page. Rory, Cat’s brother from the spirit world, has a blunt naivete concerning human sensibilities that often leads to amusing situations. Vai is both charming and irritatingly arrogant, with the latter rooted in his past and his struggles with belonging in the mage house. I didn’t quite know what to think of Camjiata, who was mistrusted by Cat. Though she had good reasons, Bee seemed to think it was more complicated than Cat thought and that he had better intentions than she believed. I could see the case for either of their beliefs, and I love when there are enough complexities involved that I don’t know what to think of a character.
Cold Steel had the same qualities that I enjoyed about the first two books in the trilogy—the detailed world, the dialogue and natural camaraderie between the characters, and the characters themselves. While I didn’t love it as much as the middle book in the trilogy due to a slow start, it does become nearly impossible to put down after that point. I imagine Cat will go on to have new adventures since I can’t picture her doing otherwise, but the story begun in Cold Magic seemed complete by the final page, making it a satisfying conclusion to the Spiritwalker trilogy.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.
Other Reviews of Cold Steel: