Cold Fire by Kate Elliott
Review by Joshua S Hill
I have never been more teasingly frustrated as I was whilst reading ‘Cold Fire’ by Kate Elliott. You see, I am – at the core and heart of it all – a hopeless romantic. I might be a Christian and all, but when it all comes down to it, I want the boy to get the girl, the girl to get the boy, and for there to be no stupid miscommunications (I’m looking at you J.K. Rowling). I want a happy ending, or, really, I want true feelings to be brought into the open before an unhappy ending.
I’m a sop. Leave me alone!
Cold Fire is Kate Elliott’s second book in her Spiritwalker trilogy, and it’s just as good as the first one. For a while there, I thought maybe Elliott had slipped up a little: the book seemed disjointed, odd time-jumps and stilted progress. Then I realised that was exactly how I should be reading the book, as that was what was happening to Catherine, our lead character. She was as temporally disrupted as we were in the reading. Being able to translate that onto the page is proof of Elliott’s mastery of her craft.
I’ve had the real joy recently of communicating with Kate over Twitter. She explained how she “got a card-carrying physicist to come up with a rationale for the magic” so that she could “make it function within the laws of thermodynamics.” When I was told this I had no trouble believing her, because the magic in this world really doesn’t seem all that “magical” to me. By which I mean, it fits! By saying it doesn’t seem magical, I mean that it doesn’t need to be called magic; it’s not unlikely, it’s not “magical”. It is, however, a perfect extension of a world that never saw an end to the ice age. It is a perfect extension of a world that allowed for the evolution of bird-like trolls.
This entire world – an Earth that is as likely as ours – makes sense, and as a result provides the perfect backdrop for one of the more fascinating stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.
The romance that stems from the events in this book sinks deep into your ‘self’ and resounds; shockingly at times. You feel as if Elliott has somehow tapped into your own history and drawn it onto the page with words that spellbind you. I think Elliott is the perfect example of an author who follows George Orwell’s number 1 rule of writing; Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous. I don’t want grammatical perfection in the books I read; I want realistic interpretation of events and feelings, and unless you were born with a British-pole rigidly inserted unpleasantly through your core, you don’t adhere to all the (often contradictory) laws of grammar when you relate your life to another. Why should we require such a thing of authors?
Without the ‘high-fantasy’ of Steven Erikson or the grab for popular attention of J.K. Rowling, Kate Elliott simply must be listed as one of the finest writers of fiction today. Dedicated to telling a story of utterly imaginable truth, there is no author I would rather be reading right now.
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