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[personal profile] killerkaleidoscope
If you're looking for a book in which people make sense, consistently using their wits and making decisions that are perfectly in keeping with world and character all the time, I highly recommend Kate Elliott's Cold Magic.

The book was advertised to me as steampunk. As an aesthetic, it can be quite pretty, but as a prose setting it often gets on my nerves because the book becomes about the stuff first and the story second. Not so with Cold Magic, to my pleasant surprise. The setting informs the story in a million different ways, from the heritage of the main character to the reason she winds up in serious danger, but only ever as highly appropriate, well-integrated set dressing, not scenery porn with a plot.

And what an intriguing plot this is. I had to read it cover-to-cover twice through because once I got the hang of what various things meant I suddenly had a wealth of tiny, subtle cues to pick over anew. The worldbuilding is--lemme put if this way: if history is a ballgown, then this is not the kind of update where the sleeves are trimmed and the ribbons are swapped out in keeping with season and fashion. This takes the gown of history-as-we-know-it and rips out every single seam before ditching two-thirds of the fabric and then putting together something new and sleek that one would scarcely recognize as being related to the old gown at all. And it's glorious.

I love the main character, Catharine. She's wary and quick-witted, proud of her oft-slandered heritage and the skills that have come with it. She thinks fast, holds her temper until she can't, speaks sharply without saying a word that isn't plain truth as she knows it. When she makes a mistake, she marks what it was so that she won't repeat it and moves on. Her highest priority is her cousin Bee--who is equally sharp, equally smart, with no apologies for her crushes on handsome young men. However, it isn't out of plain unfettered filial duty, but because they have always been there for each other and earned each others' unconditional trust. (I have issues with the 'family comes first; you owe everything to your elders' themes so common to YA lit. Cold Magic is blessedly very much not in favor of those.)

The one thing I will warn about is that it is definitely the first of a series. (The cover says a trilogy, actually.) There are threads that do not get wrapped up. There are things and people that I suspect will only be clarified a book or two in the future. The book is excellent on its own and the future books will definitely be worth it, but if you are utterly uninclined to bother with multi-part prose I would suggest you pass on this.

Myself, I love a good series. A series of smart books where people do smart things and make total sense is the gift I never dared ask for. Cold Magic and the promise of its sequels have more than earned the right to be on my 'forever favorites' list for the rest of time.


killerkaleidoscope: close-up centered on a violet daisy on diagonally-cracked gray pavement (Default)
Karolina Keene

August 2012

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