I've read Elliott before, I had an old battered copy of Jaran for the longest time (before it got lost in the Great Book Loss of 2001 aka we moved and they lost my box of books), but I haven't read much of her since. Not from lack of wanting to, but from lack of having her other books around. I haven't even read all of the Jaran books! This tends to happen with me however so I don't give undue thought.
The start to Elliott's new Spiritwalker trilogy held me captivated. To the point where I forgot to go to bed on time (my alarm kept beeping at me and I kept swatting it away until finally I shut it off entirely). From the start Elliott weaved clues and hints as to a larger picture, one none of our characters understood or saw. There's a key plot point involving Cat that is very, very misleading. Actually several, but there's one slightly more important than the others. As it unfolds a new sort of dread stepped in to chase away the feelings of unease.
In many ways this felt like a story about growing up. Neither Cat nor Bee--cousins, born only a few months apart--could be called spoiled, but they are so used to viewing the world one particular way that it astounds them constantly that their view was so narrow. Bee especially surprised me with how strong she became when confronted with the truth. I didn't expect it of her, but Elliott had laid out the foundations for the strength early on.
Cat's journey is harrowing. Ill-prepared for the life she was thrust into, by a contract she had no say in and that she was obligated to see through, she's even less prepared when the worlds spins again. The knowledge she learned from her father's journals serves her well and also acts as a way to confirm her instincts. When she is troubled or feeling indecisive she remembers a quote from his journals and feels reassured.
This is an altered history fantasy. The Empire of Rome lasted until 1000, there doesn't seem to be USA (at least not in the way we know it), trolls (not the kind you are thinking of) are common and no one thinks twice about magic. The Industrial Revolution is being opposed by the Mages, but if any of them are to be believed, its for good reason. Parts of the story grew confusing for me, since we are reading from Cat's first person POV we know what she knows. And it constantly is being changed. Alliances, friends, enemies, even cold hard facts changes from moment to moment so that my head was reeling.
The only surety in the entire book is this: Bee and Cat are bound by bonds of love, trust and friendship that nothing can sunder. The lengths these two go to, to help each other and be each other's strength, is nothing short of extraordinary. Only the briefest of doubts crosses Cat's mind about her cousin, but its immediately dismissed. They know each other, each other's quirks and habits. How to push each other's buttons and comfort when no words are spoken. It seems like such a rare thing honestly, to read about two girls' friendship that way. The last book I can think of is Sarah MacLean's The Season.
My only complaint is that Cat will often repeat things--traits other people have, cultural things or historical facts. Things she has mentioned at least once, probably twice and more than likely thrice. It got to be a little annoying, but not enough to aggravate me for long.
The next book is called Cold Fire, though I have no idea when its due out (according to a recent journal entry she hasn't finished the first draft yet, so I'm suspecting not until next fall at the earliest) and book 3 is currently titled Cold Steel (originally that was the title of book 2, but it was switched around). Can't. Wait.
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About the reviewer
Alexandra Cenni (PRationality)
I mainly review books for my blog Poisoned Rationality, Amazon and Goodreads.
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