Saturday, September 10, 2011

“Touch of Frost” by Jennifer Estep (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “Touch of Frost” HERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Interview with Jennifer Estep

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jennifer Estep has a Bachelor’s degree in English & Journalism, and a Master's in Professional Communications. Her bibliography includes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, the Mythos Academy YA urban fantasy series, and the Bigtime paranormal romance series. She is also a member of Romance Writers of AmericaScience Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and other writing groups.

BOOK BLURB: My name is Gwen Frost, and I go to Mythos Academy—a school of myths, magic and warrior whiz kids, where even the lowliest geek knows how to chop off somebody's head with a sword. And then there’s Logan Quinn, the hottest Spartan guy in school, who also happens to be the deadliest.

But lately, things have been weird, even for Mythos. First, mean girl Jasmine Ashton was murdered in the Library of Antiquities. Then, someone stole the Bowl of Tears, a magical artifact that can be used to bring about the second Chaos War. You know, death, destruction and lots of other bad, bad things.

Freaky stuff like this goes on all the time at Mythos, but I'm determined to find out who killed Jasmine and why—especially since I should have been the one who died.

FORMAT/INFO: The e-ARC of Touch of Frost is 278 pages long divided over twenty-six chapters. Narration is in the first-person, exclusively via the protagonist Gwen Frost. Touch of Frost is self-contained, but is the first volume in the Mythos Academy series. An e-Prequel called First Frost, expands on events that were mentioned in Touch of Frost. Touch of Frost was released on August 1, 2011 via Kensington Books.

ANALYSIS: After hearing about Touch of Frost in an interview we did last year with Jennifer Estep, I couldn’t wait to read the book, especially since I enjoyed the author’s Elemental Assassin series. So when I was given the opportunity to review an e-ARC of Touch of Frost, I gladly dove in...

Gwendolyn Frost is a sixteen-year-old gypsy girl whose life is suddenly turned upside down when she is admitted into Mythos Academy due to certain events covered in First Frost. With very few friends and even fewer ideas about her new environment, Gwen does her best to survive, while trying to earn some extra cash with her psychometry gifts. Her fellow students include Valkyries, Spartans, and other mythological/historical warrior races who are trained in both magic and martial arts. Their purpose is to prevent the Reapers of Chaos from freeing their master, Loki, who was imprisoned eons ago because he tried to defeat the other gods and enslave humanity.

At first, Gwen doesn’t buy into any of this “magic mumbo jumbo”, but things quickly change when she happens upon a brutally murdered Valkyrie at the same time an important artifact called the Bowl of Tears goes missing. Keenly feeling the loss of Jasmine Ashton’s life which strongly resonates with her own circumstances, Gwen decides to use her powers to discover the truth of the matter. Thus begins the first volume of the Mythos Academy series, which pits Gwen Frost against powers she had no idea existed.

Main character Gwen Frost is a refreshing protagonist in the sense that she’s a normal sixteen-year-old girl who is trying to adjust to the demands of being a teenager, as well as dealing with the extraordinary wonders of her new school. The supporting cast meanwhile, is not very big, but like the Elemental Assassin series, the side characters in Touch of Frost are well-rounded and will no doubt go on to play important roles in future volumes. As a whole, Jennifer Estep’s characterization is realistic and is often the highlight of the novel.

Story-wise, Touch of Frost is fast-paced and very fun to read, with a slightly campy feel, although the novel never goes overboard with its silliness. There is some romance in the book, but it’s kept within reasonable bounds and never overwhelms the story. This was crucial for me as I don’t mind romance so long as it complements the story instead of overshadowing it. On a different note, readers familiar with Jennifer Estep’s other books might notice the sagacious elder who often helps the protagonist and also makes delicious food ;)

Drawbacks include predictable plot twists and an inescapable comparison to the Harry Potter novels. I confess that part of my attraction to the Mythos Academy series in the first place was the similarities to Harry Potter, but Jennifer Estep’s novel is more YA-oriented and doesn’t hold a candle to J.K. Rowling in terms of world-building. Of course, Touch of Frost is only the first book of a series, so Jennifer Estep has plenty of opportunities to flesh out the world of the Mythos Academy.

CONCLUSION: Despite unavoidable comparisons to Harry Potter and a predictable story, Jennifer Estep’s first YA novel is a successful one. For not only is Touch of Frost fun to read, but it’s the kind of book that can appeal to the child in all of us, while Gwen Frost is an engaging protagonist readers can root for as she tries to confront problems of love, magic and destiny...