Cold Magic by Kate Elliot Review

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Title: Cold Magic
Author: Kate Elliot (Twitter)
Publisher: Orbit
Publish Date: September 2, 2010
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 528
Source: Personal Copy

Young Cat Barahal thinks she understands the world she lives in and her place in it, but in fact she is merely poised, unaware, on the brink of shattering events. Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood, betrayal and old feuds, she will be forced to make an unexpected and perilous journey in order to discover the truth, not just about her own family but about an ancient secret lying at the heart of her world.

Cat and her cousin Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can't be trusted, who can you trust?
Cat's world is in constant upheaval. Living with her cousin, Bee, who is more like a sister than anything else, Cat has finally found a sort of normalcy, but the time she lives in is dangerous and unsettled. She lives in a time when cold mages hold all the power, and a mysterious lurking threat from the spirit world breathes unrest on the population. But the danger is about to come more real when a cold mage demands to marry the eldest Barahal daughter and her life is and future becomes intertwined in his. What magic will she discover on this journey, and what really lies in her bloodlines.

I'm always a bit hesitant to embark on a new fantasy series, simply because if I cannot find myself getting lost in the world, I'm not sure it could ever work for me. Luckily enough, Cold Magic is a breathtakingly put-together novel and author, Kate Elliot, has given us a world that is so clear, so defined and so very magical that it's impossible to not fully immerse yourself within it. Rich, layered and intricately detailed, Cold Magic gives us a world that is every bit as real as ours, but re-imagined, re-invigorated and heightened with a whole other layer of drama.

Cold Magic is probably one of the best fantasy novels I've read in a long time, if only for the fact that it seamlessly merges two fairly overlooked genres - steampunk and fantasy - together. The world given to us within the pages is one that's rich with history and peppered with magical and technological elements that serve to bolster this world and bring it alive, almost as if it's a character in its own right. This world-building was, however, a bit of a double-edged sword. The page count of this novel is quite hefty, as most fantasy novels are, and the beginning of the novel is heavily laden with descriptions, and the complexity of it all was, at first, rather alarming and overwhelming. We're given rich backstory, as well as a strong and definitive definition of the classes, hierarchies and the messy battle between magic and science in the society. It was easy to feel flustered by the sheer amount of information provided, but it was also clear that the author was setting the scene for what could become an extremely powerful series. Cat, as our protagonist, soared for me. She was strong and independent in a believable and un-cliche manner. She felt entirely real with her firm convictions and the steadfastness in her beliefs, plus the fact that she was never afraid to speak her mind. Andevai was a character whom I thought I'd hate after a rough introduction to him, but there is so much more to him than this condescending air which he first presents. Slowly but surely, he stole my heart through this book and really vied for the top place of my favourite character. Plus, Cold Magic steadily builds a hearty tension between Cat and Andevai, which I must say really, really intrigues me.

Overall, despite an extraordinary amount of information and details, I really enjoyed Cold Magic, and I felt it was a promising start to what could be a great new series. I'm definitely intrigued to see what happens next. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy and steampunk novels. 


  1. This sounds like a great fantasy and I'm always up for steampunk, though sometimes I find that it gets a little overly descriptive with all the mechanicals and gadgets. Sounds like this one had great characters, also! I'll have to check it out sometime! Great review, Melissa!

  2. Info dumping always worries me but I love the sound of this one.

    Fab review, Melissa! <33

  3. Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Melissa! Cold Fire is even better and I just reviewed Cold Steel today which was a fantastic conclusion to the trilogy, so you're in definitely in for a treat with this one (and Andevai)! ;) Lovely review, dear!(:

  4. I read Keertana's reviews for I think the final book in this series and she adored it too. I'm not typically a fantasy reader either, but I think you and Keertana have definitely convinced me to give it a go. Andevai sounds like a fantastic character! Fab review Melissa! :)

  5. I am always hesitant to jump into any series...but this one sounds pretty fantastic.

  6. I love fantasy and since this one comes with your recommendation, it has to be good! The series is new to me but sounds great, especially those characters!

  7. FANTASTIC SERIES! I love the two girls and the boy makes me want to smack him but he turns out alright. :)

  8. I love fantasy and steampunk so I'll be adding this one to my wishlist since I've never heard of it. Great worldbuilding is a requirement for me in these two genres and the worldbuilding of Cold Magic sounds pretty good. I also like the sound of the romance which seems like it's slow building.

  9. This is the first time I'm hearing of this series, Melissa, but I'm very interested because I'm a huge fan of YA fantasy books.
    I'm a little worried by the amount of information that is provided though. Sometimes, it can feel a little overwhelming and bore me.
    The protagonist sounds wonderful though.
    I'll be sure to check this one out.
    Lovely review! :)

  10. I know you don't read a lot of this genre, so it means a lot that you enjoyed this one so much. That coupled with Keertana's review has me putting this at the top of my TBR. I love a well developed fantasy world, and despite its heft, it sounds like this one does its job well. Am I also to understand that the cold mage that wants to marry her is the same as Andevai? That makes this story more intriguing, because usually the betrothed guy gets booted for someone else. Thanks for getting me excited about this one!

  11. Ooh, I am SO intrigued now that I've read your review! Definitely going to be checking this one out.

  12. I felt very similarly to you with regard to the world-building/info-dumping present in this first installment. Although I haven't read the other books in the trilogy yet, I have heard that they get better and more understandable. I haven't read much steampunk yet myself, but I feel as though Eliot's interpretation of a steampunk world is so very well done that it's going to end up forming the basis for comparison for most other steampunk books I end up reading. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. :) I loved Cat too, and, even more than that, I loved her relationship with Bee. That was definitely the highlight of the book for me.


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