Cold Steel by Kate Elliott

cold steel by kate elliottThis is the 3rd novel in Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy.

Summary (from Amazon): Trouble, treachery, and magic just won’t stop plaguing Cat Barahal. The Master of the Wild Hunt has stolen her husband Andevai. The ruler of the Taino kingdom blames her for his mother’s murder. The infamous General Camjiata insists she join his army to help defeat the cold mages who rule Europa. An enraged fire mage wants to kill her. And Cat, her cousin Bee, and her half-brother Rory, aren’t even back in Europa yet, where revolution is burning up the streets.

Revolutions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue.

Cat and Bee have their work cut out for them.

My Thoughts: Cold Steel is the last novel in Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy (#1: Cold Magic, #2: Cold Fire). If you are looking for an epic series with adventure, travel, terrific world-building, a bit of romance, an intriguing and utterly unique heroine, a deep friendship, and liberal amounts of humor, this is it.

Cold Steel was a great wrap-up, and it left me aching for more in the way that the best books do. However, I suspect that I did myself an extreme disfavor by waiting so long between the 2nd novel and this one–part of that was, of course, Life, and the general obnoxiousness that comes along with it, and it rendered me fairly confused and sometimes disinterested near the beginning of Cold Steel. I had forgotten some of the “rules” that fantasy / alternate-universe novels like this come with, and for a decent amount of time I was left wondering about many characters’ motives and decisions, which took away some of the enjoyment for me. I should have re-read Cold Fire again before embarking on this 3rd novel, and maybe I’ll attempt that scenario sometime in the future. I think that would change a lot of the way I ended up feeling about the book.

I’d like to reiterate a point I made in my review of Cold Magic, and that is that I really enjoy the portrayal of friendship between Cat, our protagonist, and her cousin/BFF, Bee. I do think it’s a shame that so many of the books specifically marketed towards (young) women feature so few female relationships, and if there are multiple women featured in the novel, they are usually enemies or fighting over a man. Especially with all the recent attention about The Bechdel Test, this is a problem that goes beyond literature. There is a romance in this trilogy, the one between Cat and her husband, Andevai, and it is certainly romantic, swoon-worthy, and heartbreaking at times (as all good romances are), but it is not the only meaningful relationship in our female protagonist’s life–it’s one of many, and that, to me, is a much more realistic and honest portrayal of romance.

Another strong point of Elliott’s is her ability to make her characters fully 3-dimensional. The characters in Cold Fire have weaknesses, and not stupid, shallow “weaknesses” thrown in to make sure that the character isn’t a flawless Mary Sue. Andevai, Cat’s husband and romantic interest, is flawed and these flaws can be both humorous (his pride and vanity lead him to accumulate an impressive number of clothes that have to be lugged across half the continent by Cat and Bee) and serious: Andevai’s loyalty to his past, and an overwhelming desire for respect and recognition cause him and Cat to struggle greatly with their relationship and their dual involvement in the revolution they are fighting for. There are doubts, realistic doubts that caused me as a reader to waver as well.

I was first drawn into this series because I so enjoyed viewing it through Cat’s eyes. She is a unique heroine in that she isn’t really a heroine–in any typical fantasy story, her personality, actions, and motivations would have cast her as the sidekick, and her cousin Bee as the heroine. This is really a story about a side-player in a greater drama with her own reasons for doing what she does, and which might not line up with the traditional, heroic notion of right-and-wrong, save-the-world, goody-goody. I really enjoyed this in the first and second novels, but (and this might be a side effect of the aforementioned delay between my reading the 2nd and 3rd books) she really lost me a few times in Cold Steel. Certain pivotal moments had me going “whaaaat?” at her actions and thoughts, and I didn’t connect with her as well. I ended up not being as invested or impressed emotionally because I didn’t understand her motivations and reactions.

Overall, this is a very good trilogy with a world that I hope Elliott will return to sometime in the future. It’s so fleshed-out and well-developed I feel like she must have more stories and characters off-stage that deserve their chance to be told. Cold Steel was not my favorite of the series, but it’s still good. Also funny. It’s an interesting kind of humor–lots of different kinds of humor, actually. So enjoyable!

Author Websitehttp://www.kateelliott.com/

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New name; currently reading; getting back in the game

First off: I used to be lasrisas.wordpress.com, but I thought a name change would do me some good. This book blog is now shelfworn.wordpress.com–trying to get more in line with the “book”-y aspect of things.

I’ve got a few more weeks of school left, and then it’s summertime, which means READING time! Reading for pleasure I mean–I do plenty of reading during the school year, but it’s a lot of textbooks and analysis and blah blah blah.

Anyway, I jumped the gun into summer by finishing Bitterblue in about a day, and I’m currently in the midst of Patricia Briggs’ latest Alpha & Omega novel: Fair Game.

Here’s the summary for the 3rd novel in the series:

Patricia Briggs, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson novels, “always enchants her readers.” (Lynn Viehl, New York Times bestselling author) Now her Alpha and Omega series-set in a world of shifting shapes, loyalty, and passion- brings werewolves out of the darkness and into a society where fear and prejudice could make the hunters prey…

They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can’t afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father’s dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.

Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack’s help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer’s sights…

I think one of my goals for summer 2012 is to do a better job on this blog–more reviews, more networking, more discussion, more everything. I’ve really been neglecting it for the past few months. At one point in the past I was updating twice weekly and doing giveaways! That was also back when I had more time to read & review, however.

Time to get back in the game.

Upcoming Reads!

Here’s a brief preview of things I’m currently reading and hoping to read soon:

Immortal City by Scott Speer. This comes out in April 2012, and I got an ARC from the publisher, razorbill! I’m enjoying it a lot so far. Here’s the summary from the back:

Jackson Godspeed is the hottest young Angel in a city filled with them. He’s days away from becoming a full Guardian, and people around the world are already competing for the chance to be watched over by him. Everyone’s obsessed with the Angels and the lucky people they protect – everyone except for Madison Montgomery.

Maddy’s the one girl in Angel City who doesn’t breathlessly follow the Angels on TV and gossip blogs. When she meets Jackson, she doesn’t recognize him. But Jackson is instantly captivated by her, and against all odds the two fall in love.

Maddy is swiftly caught up in Jackson’s scene, a world of glamour, paparazzi – and murder. A serial killer is on the loose, leaving dead Angels’ wings for the police to find on the Walk of Fame. Even the Guardians are powerless to protect themselves in the face of this threat … and this time it’s up to Maddy to save Jackson.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’ve started this and picked it up in eBook fomat because it was billed as one of Amazon’s be st books of the month for this past September. I’m about a third of the way in and I can’t say I’ve fallen in love yet. But I’ll keep reading. It does have a lovely cover.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. I’ve been hearing about this one in the book blogging circles. Haven’t started yet, but definitely excited to–dystopian science fiction is right up my alley. 

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war– and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice:
Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel with a paranormal twist that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

Another thing I’d like to note is that up until about this fall, I was strictly a dead-trees book kind of girl. I never bought an eBook reader, mostly because the books themselves were too pricey at an average of $10/book, and my local library system doesn’t have the most awesome eBook stash yet. I also just didn’t have the money in the first place to shell out for a Kindle or Nook or, god forbid, a $400 iPad. But the thing is, I’ve had a smartphone for ages–several different kinds of phones, actually. And silly me didn’t realize that you can get free eReaders on your smartphone as apps. Which, in my mind, defeats the point of buying a super expensive reader like the Kindle or Nook. I already carry my phone with me EVERYWHERE (why load myself up with yet another gadget?) and I can read things on it without having to pay $200 or somesuch for the device. The apps (including Kindle) are free for smartphones! I like Aldiko, personally, since it can handle books in .epub format, which my library has a lot of. And it looks pretty 🙂

I can legitimately say that at least 70% of the books I’ve read in the past 2 months have been in eBook format on my phone. So convenient.

21 books read since my last update

… but no reviews! How sad. This is going to be another one of your typical “Oh I got busy and couldn’t keep up this blog” posts. But it’s so true. And I’ve gotten kind of used to it. I review like crazy during the summer and when I’m on break from school, but when classes are in full swing, it’s honestly just impossible. Here’s a list of the books I’ve read since my last review in August (so long ago!)

  1. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (re-read)
  2. In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce (re-read)
  3. Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (re-read)
  5. Nightspell by Leah Cypess
  6. The Lovers by Vendela Vida
  7. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
  8. The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
  9. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (re-read)
  10. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (re-read)
  11. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
  12. Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
  13. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
  14. Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
  15. Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
  16. River Marked by Patricia Briggs
  17. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  18. Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
  19. Eve by Anna Carey
  20. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
  21. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

As you can see I barreled my way through the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. I have said previously that I prefer her Alpha & Omega series, because I once tried Moon Called and wasn’t a fan (I didn’t get very far into it). However, I am so glad I tried it out again! I ended up completely sucked in and read the entire series in like a week. Now I’m a big fan.

I’ve also been reading a lot of new YA novels. I just finished The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer–I have never read a book where in one sentence, I am terrified to the point of paralysis, and in the very next sentence, I’m laughing out loud. Michelle Hodkin has definite talent. This book started out one way, and kind of evolved into a whole new, but no less amazing, piece of work. Everything came together so perfectly in Mara Dyer, except for that torturous cliff hanger! I must know what happens next! Highly recommended.

Carson’s debut, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, was a little simpler but still entertaining. I very much enjoyed the heroine, Elisa, and her development and progress throughout the novel. Also–a heroine who is also overweight, in a fantasy novel? Not done very often. And by that, I mean that usually books about overweight protagonists focus on being overweight. You never really get a fantasy or science fiction heroine who, as a sideline, happens to be overweight (as in, her weight is not the focus of the story). I applaud Carson. And really, it shouldn’t need applauding, it shouldn’t be so new/strange, but it is I suppose.

Eve by Anna Carey was a dystopian YA that I enjoyed. Writing style aimed a little younger than Mara Dyer, but still very enjoyable. I was definitely emotionally involved, especially near the end. Another one that I must keep an eye out for the sequel.

I read Keplinger‘s debut, The DUFF, and reviewed it awhile ago and became a big fan of hers. Same here with Shut Out. Interesting plot, interesting heroine, great messages for teenage girls. Keplinger should be on every elementary/middle/high school library’s bookshelves.

I also have a lot of re-reads on there. I love re-reading my favorite books during the summer. It’s like seeing old friends again.

But a new one was The Lovers by Vendela Vida, which I can describe as sort of a perfectly formed, perfectly clear cup of tea. Not sure how else to put it. I was first introduced to Vida through her earlier book, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, also perfect.

Probably won’t be able to update again until December!

The Chart of Fantasy Art: Urban Fantasy

I’m not the biggest fan of Urban/Paranormal fantasy, save for a few great exceptions, mostly due to the deluge of completely incompetent writers in the genre who repeat the same old tired cliches and plots over and over again. 98% of these books feature the same kind of cover, featuring a “sexy, tough heroine” on a dark background, looking mysterious, sexy and tough, often with some kind of werewolf, vampire, or weapon in hand. All of these women have the exact same “ideal” body type, almost all wear some kind of skin tight leather clothing, and have faces that are considered beautiful by usual media standards–as well, all of them are light skinned. But that’s really something for a separate post.

Yeah, yeah, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, but when I see a cover like that I automatically pass it over and assume it is badly written. Just carbon copies of the same old, same old. It’s kind of depressing what the Urban/Paranormal Fantasy market has become, especially when it used to be the domain of authors like Emma Bull and Annette Curtis Klause; quality writing.

From Orbit Books this week (I find it fairly humorous and interesting):

Here’s another comprehensive chart of cover trends (I assume Orbit is only looking at their own published novels) in pdf form. Also informative.