‘Cold Fire’ by Kate Elliott invites us to the same parallel earth as ‘Cold Magic’, therefore I won’t bother to describe the world again. So please, if you didn’t read my review of book 1, please help yourself and go for it right now. I will wait for you. http://sfcrowsnest.org.uk/cold-magic-spirit-walker-book-1-by-kate-elliottbook-review/
Back already? Good. ‘Cold Fire’ kicks off a bit before the point in time when ‘Cold Magic’ ended. Cat, Bee and Rory flee across the city with the cold mages, the Prince of Adurnam and their henchmen breathing down their necks. After a near encounter with their pursuers, they reach the law offices of Godwik and Clutch, where they meet some old friends, namely the colourful group of travellers Cat bumped into on her way to Four Moons House. General Camjiata and his companions show up as well and he tells Cat a bit more about her mother. The General is really there to forge an alliance with the radicals. Later, another guest, Andevai, appears at the doors of the law offices who as we learn later on, is looking for a legal way to dissolve the marriage he and Cat didn’t really want.
Professor Kehinde, one of the radicals, sends Cat and Bee on towards the headmaster of the Academy of Adurnam, who shall shelter them until they are ready to join the radicals. But plans are made while real life happens.
The headmaster awaits Cat and her entourage with sparkling news of the poet Bran Cof’s head, who talked again. The poet reveals to Cat the only way to break the magical bond between her and Andevai (who can guess? – exactly): Don’t consummate the marriage for a year and a day! Then her sire calls Cat from the spirit world by using Bran Cof as a mouthpiece. Cat and Bee follow the call, albeit unwillingly. In the spirit world, they first meet Andevai’s grandmother, who relates a message from him. Then Bee comes to the rescue of some hatching dragons (they are called ‘the enemy’ there) before the cousins are separated. Whilst Bee finds her way back to the world of the living on her own, Cat has to travel further into the spirit world to finally meet her sire, who forces her to make a choice between Bee or an unknown power which threatens the Wild Hunt. He promises her that, like every year on Hallows’ Night, the Wild Hunt will ride and hunt down one or the other.
Cat has no choice but to agree to his demands. Quite suddenly, she finds herself drowning and in the unwelcome company of a shark. She has reached Salt Island, a small island in the vicinity of Expedition, where victims of the salt plague, called salters, are quarantined. The second part of the novel introduces us to Expedition, the Taino Kingdom of the Antilles and their inhabitants. Because Cat arrives there about seven months after entering the spirit world in Adurnam, a whole lot of people she knows have arrived there without knowing she would go to that place: Andevai and Camjiata and his entourage including Bee.
Cat still seems to be an unwitting agent of change. Everywhere she goes, revolution stirs and she inadvertently fans the fires of uprising. Cat’s world seems to be about to change and we will hopefully see in book 3, ‘Cold Steel’, what will become of it. The three main topics of the first novel, namely the stirring revolution in Europa, the interactions with the spirit world and the personal story of Cat are this time around supplemented by the themes of normal life and family and the overall yearning for freedom that almost all characters experience in one way or another. There are air pirates, an invasion, another revolution, two nearly identical princes, sharks, salters and much more crammed into the 500 odd pages of the novel.
In ‘Cold Fire’, Kate Elliott once again very successfully weaves the disparate seeming strands of her Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency world on the brink of revolutions of all shades together to a beautiful world tapestry. The novel does what a good middle book in a trilogy should do, it shows more and different facets of the characters we already know, introduces us to new characters, widens and deepens the scope of the world and adds new aspects to the plot.
The sequel still contains all of the first book’s positive elements. Just to remind you, a working magic system, engaging characters even in minor roles, a well-paced plot and a world without racism and don’t you think this book doesn’t end with a cliff-hanger. Naturally it does. This is the second book of a trilogy, what did you expect? Even though the whole trilogy is targeted foremost at younger women, I am looking forward to reading the last instalment of the adventures of Catherine ‘Cat’ Hassi Barahal, her cousin Bee, their friends and their many enemies and would encourage every fan of unusual fantasy to take a look at these books. Hopefully, it will be as much fun as instalments one and two.
(pub: Orbit. 512 page enlarged paperback. Price: £13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-883-6)