Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
I have not been as surprised and thrilled to find myself loving a book in a long as when I started reading ‘Cold Magic’ by Kate Elliott. The book had been placed on a pile of books sent to me that I would leave for a rainy day; nothing special, I thought. How wrong I was.
As they approach adulthood, Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee think they understand the society they live in and their place within it. At a select academy they study new airship technologies and the dawning Industrial Revolution, but magical forces still rule. And the cousins are about to discover the full ruthlessness of this rule.
Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood and old feuds, Cat is betrayed by her family and forced to marry a powerful Cold Mage. As she is carried away to live a new life, fresh dangers threaten her every move and secrets form a language she cannot read. At least, not yet.
But both cousins carry their own hidden gifts and these will shape great changes to come. For in the depths of this treacherous world, the Wild Hunt stirs in darkness and dragons are waking from their sleep.
Set on Earth in a world that I wish had formed instead of our own, about 200 years ago, Cold Magic is a great story that I’m never going to be able to do justice to. The blurb and quotes make this book sound a little more ‘fantasy’ than it really is. Yes, there are apparently dragons, though I don’t remember ever seeing one, and the world we travel through is so believable you’ll start to wonder if maybe Elliott has the inside source on what actually took place 200 years ago.
The technologies mixed in with the magic of this world make for a fantastic world, which is made all the more incredible and credible thanks to Elliott’s use of place-names found in our own histories. Phoenician’s who prefer to be called by their true name, Kana’ani, travel across Europa and, along with the Celtics and other nationalities of the region, rejoice the loss of the Roman Empire in the year 1000.
Taking Earth as a setting for a fantasy book is one thing, as most authors will simply place their fantasy world over the top of our own. Not many authors take the time to rewrite our history at the same time as understanding our history to bring both into peace with one another. Every time I saw mention of Qart Hadast – “called Carthage by the cursed Romans” – I felt a part of a world that seemed all the more real for being dissimilar to ours.
The cousins – Catherine and Beatrice – really do find themselves caught up in a world they simply have not been prepared for. Cold Mage’s rule with an iron and cold fist, threatening power over others – high and mighty – with the threat of their magic. But they are not invulnerable, and that makes this story once again quite brilliant for its nuances.
This book had me hooked from the first page, and the fact that this is a world where the ice-sheets never receded as much as they had in ours really played to the science-nerd in me. Add in the warped history and languages, characters I wish I knew personally, and a way with words I haven’t had the pleasure of reading since Steven Erikson, and Kate Elliott is now a contender for one of my favourite authors.
This Cold Magic book review was written by Joshua S Hill
All reviews for: Spiritwalker
Spiritwalker: Book 1
As they approach adulthood, Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee think they understand the society they live in and their place within it. At a select academy they study new airs...
Spiritwalker: Book 2
Cat and her cousin are key players in a drama of dragons and politics. Everyone wants something from them - including the warlord who's conquering all Europa and the Co...
Have you read Cold Magic?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Cold Magic reader reviews
Dollie from United States
I struggled to finish this book because I hate to leave things undone, but was sorely tempted to make an exception for this painful read. The author uses too many thesaurus-worthy words and paragraph length sentences. The characters are clunky and unbelievable, the dialogue is awkward... It gets slightly better in the middle when all of the main characters are separated and there is only action, but as soon as the characters are reunited I went back to hating the awkward interpersonal relationships and dreadfully forced romance. I don't understand the positive reviews I've seen for this book. If you dislike it also, you are not alone.
Garry from England
I couldn't bring myself to get past the second chapter. I found myself bleating at first to the map around which she bases her world: this seemingly fantastical "mash up" is merely a collation of tidbits from here and there that sound like a fantasy story one tries too hard to write - which is the impression I got when reading the very first pages. Kingdoms such as Dumnonia, the earliest Latin name for Great Britain, and Londun as the capital. The politics are also loosely based on true historic events. It's just fact mashed up with small changes such as Londun that begin to make this story unbearable. I do give her credit for her interesting choice of words but, again, I got the impression that she tried too hard at something she frankly isn't good at, and reverts to the outdated use of apostrophes splitting up words into different sounds. It's teeth-grinding. I did not find myself swept up into the sub fictional story that some claim this book to interest them for, just as with many fantasy writers, she took far too long with back story that it became perilous trying to work my way through it. I realise I may have a second print of the book but I find it rather pretentious having an interview with yourself appended to the back. If I wanted to read her nonsensical answers about where she gets her ideas I think I would rather read her blog or biography. I also find it pretentious how she adds "book club questions" to her books. She obviously spent some time thinking far too into the story but that itself ruined it for me. Maybe I'm wrong to argue with a book that has gotten very good reviews but that's how I feel about it.
Alessan from Carcosa
The one negative about this book is the way the heavy worldbuilding sometimes invades everything else, gifting with overly long, unrealistic walls of text in the middle of dialogue. But other than that, this novel was beautifully written, with an excellent characterization! I did not expect to like it as much as I did!
Jamie from Cardiff
I found Elliott's rewritten world to be both in depth and fascinating. Her strength is adding a rich culture that is embedded into the world she's created. Whenever I talk about culture in fantasy, I always use Cold Magic as an example. Her magic system is also solid and interesting to read. A superb start to the series, and I can't wait to get my hands on Cold Fire!
5.8/10 from 5 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The year is 1939. Raybould Marsh and other members of British Intelligence have gathered to watch a damaged reel of film in a darkened room. It appears to show German troop...
Guy Gavriel Kay
Set in a beleaguered land caught in a web of tyranny, Tigana is the deeply moving story of a people struggling to be free. A people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the t...
A Christmas Carol
It is Christmas Eve in Victorian London, and all around the snow-covered city people are rushing home to be with their families. All except one man, that is: Ebenezer Scroo...
Sailing to Sarantium
Guy Gavriel Kay
Rumoured to be responsible for the ascension of the previous Emperor, his uncle, amid fire and blood, Valerius the Trakesian has himself now risen to the Golden Throne of t...
In the winter of his eleventh year, Little Hawk goes deep into the forest, where he must endure a three-month test of solitude and survival which will turn him into a man. ...
The Moon and the Sun
Vonda N McIntyre
Louis XIV, the Sun King, rules the Western World from the Chateau at Versailles. Marie- Josèphe de la Croix looks forward to assisting her brother in the scientific ...
Come one come all to greatest city in the world. In London, all men are free, the streets are lined with gold and the naughty ladies are friendly to all. In London there ar...
Who or what is Endymion Spring? A power for good, or for evil... A legendary book that holds the secret to a world of knowledge... A young boy without a voice - whose five-...
Publius Varrus is the last legionnaire in Britain, and The Skystone is in many ways his story. He is a common man with aristocratic friends, and successful both as a soldie...
Dreaming Of Zhou Gong
The Wu have been living in isolation for decades while the Shang Emperor and his enchantress have ruled the land. It has been a terrible time for the common people and the ...
Kepler is like you, but not like you. With a simple touch, Kepler can move into any body, live any life - for a moment, a day or for years. And your life could be next. SOM...
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg
Philip Jose Farmer
About a hundred years ago, a group of mutant supermen began playing a major role in our affairs. It is no accident that Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Nemo, and Doc Savag...
The High King of Montival
Rudi Mackenzie has returned to Montival with the Sword of the Lady, ready to face the legions of the Prophet. To achieve victory, Rudi must assemble a coalition of former e...
The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Edinburgh, 1874. On the coldest night the world has ever seen, Little Jack is born with a frozen heart and immediately undergoes a life-saving operation. But Dr Madeleine i...
Sold into servitude in the pagan splendour of the Night Court as a child, Phedre no Delaunay is a woman who struggles for honour and duty, whose loyalty to the land she lov...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself King, and traitors at every turn. The Five Kingdoms and Sarth have assembled a fleet of ships unlike any the world has ever seen and they intend to purge the Pirate Isles once a...
Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To ...
Age of Swords
Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...
The Shadow Crucible
Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All ...
The Dog Stars
Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's...