Monday, October 3, 2011

"Cold Fire" by Kate Elliott (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Kate Elliott Website
Order "Cold Fire" HERE
Read FBC Review of "Cold Magic" HERE
Read FBC Review of "Traitor's Gate" with Bonus Q/A
Read FBC Review of "Shadow Gate"
Read FBC Interview with Kate Elliott

INTRODUCTION: Last year's Cold Magic has been an unexpected hit with me and I have reread it twice this year too, once earlier when I was in the mood for an exuberant read and once a week or so ago, just after I got a copy of Cold Fire, so I could read them back to back. Very high expectations and after a somewhat surprising beginning and some 150 pages that were more of a retread of the action in Cold Magic than what I expected to see in Cold Fire - pages that were engrossing but felt a little repetitive - Cold Fire got into high gear and delivered the story I was looking forward to.

I discussed the world building in detail in my Cold Magic review and the following will contain spoilers for the first installment. Since the two novels are part of one long story and they have the same "feel", I recommend reading Cold Magic before Cold Fire since the odds are high that you will love - or not - both the same way.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: While Cold Fire is still a voice novel first and foremost and the exuberant narrator Catherine Bell Barahal aka Cat is back on form trying to navigate the changed situation in which she discovers herself after the revelations of Cold Magic, the structure of the book is quite interesting too.

So far there have been three main aspects: the sociopolitical situation which is at a cusp, the interaction with the spirit world which seems to be out of balance too and the personal saga of Cat with both its romantic and emancipation parts, not to speak her deep personal bond with her cousin Beatrice who is another pivotal character in all three aspects above.

The way Cold Magic ended, it clearly suggested that Cold Fire will continue to follow these three themes with the "big picture" moving center stage and this is why the first 150 pages surprised me since they were partly a retread of events in Cold Magic - though indeed the subtle differences that appear due to the new circumstances make quite a difference and the supernatural rather than the political is thrown into prominence. Then with a little authorial "magic", the novel moves back to the expected channel and from there on it just rolls over 300 pages that I really did not want to end and I would have gladly read another 300.

We get everything we want - the right mix of old and new both in world building and characters, in adventure and romance, not to speak of superb twists and turns and a powerful ending that promises so much for the last trilogy volume. Cold Fire also becomes Andevai's novel too from about halfway on and the arrogant cold mage of the first volume now thrown into a different realm where his kind are lowly "fire banes" and cannon fodder for the powerful local fire mages, disguises himself as - or maybe reverts to - the "simple" worker of his childhood and becomes much more human and likable in the process.

But there is more - pirates, invasion and revolution, powerful mages, a look at the "salt sickness" that threw the world in chaos centuries ago, the simple pleasures of life and family and overall the yearning for "freedom" that most characters have and which is so eloquently expressed by Cat here:

“I want this chain off my tongue, Vai. Just as you want the chains off your village, just as Bee wants to live. I want not to live at the mercy of Four Moons House, or a prince’s militia, or the general’s schemes. Surely it’s the same thing most people want. Health and vigor. A refuge which is not a cage but those who care for us and whom we care for."

Besides the first 150 pages detour - which on balance works well enough, while the stuff in there is interesting in itself though its main point did not justify the time spent getting to it - there was one thing that bothered me, namely the way the people of the Antilles were described to talk which sounded too much like the Victorian description of "native talk" for comfort. After all Cat, Vai and the rest of the European characters do not speak English either, academic or stilted, so the reader and the author share this suspension of disbelief as the book is narrated in English, and making the natives speak "bad English" is not that inspired.

Overall Cold Fire (A++, top 10 novel of 2011 for me) is a remarkable achievement since it expands the universe of the series, ends at a definite point while promising a lot for the last volume, all narrated in the same wonderful exuberant voice that enchanted me so much in Cold Magic.

No comments:

Post a Comment