I actually bought this book for myself. It was sitting on the shelf waiting for the flow of library books to slow down enough to read it. Then my friend L asked for a steampunky book to take home right then, and I had nothing to give her but the first book in the series – so I had to start the second right away so I could be ready to loan it to her when she finished the first one.
Cold Fire by Kate Elliott.
This is volume two in the series. When last we left our friends… well, honestly, it was a while ago and I didn’t have the first book on hand to look through and it took me a little while to get back in the swing of things. Cat, our heroine, her beautiful cousin Bee, and her half-brother (and saber-tooth cat) brother Rory are on the run from the mage house she married into. They take refuge in the law firms of some trolls that Cat befriended in the last book. Cat and Bee are initially hoping to find a job there, but things do not go as planned. The former and would-be future emperor Camjiata (who seems much like Napoleon, though he is from Spain) tells Bee that his now-deceased wife had told him of her. She, like the dead wife, walks the dreams of dragons, which shape the world. To walk the dreams is both to have knowledge of the future, and to be targeted by the Wild Hunt. He, of course, wants Bee and Cat to help him. But as Camjiata and his party hide, Cat’s husband, Andevai, comes, followed by a party of soldiers. Mass chaos and chasing ensue, followed by an interlude of prophetic conversation at the University Cat and Bee used to attend – and then a trip to the Underworld. When Cat resurfaces, she’s in the Caribbean. She has found out – to her horror – who her actual sire is. A lot of time has passed on Earth and she now has only a few months to figure out how to save Bee from the Wild Hunt. In Elliott’s reimagined Earth, most of the Caribbean is still the Taino empire, with European ownership limited to the sprawling city of Expedition.
There is really too much going on here to summarize it all. There is lots of excitement, both political and personal, and we learn more about the various people and cultures of the world, all interesting. In the hot Caribbean, the cold mages that rule in the cold north are considered mythical, and power goes instead to fire mages. Cat has some very close encounters with a fire mage who works for Camjiata. Cat and Andevai meet again, and I’m happy to say that their relationship in this book is much more satisfactory. In the first book it was all cruel words and thoughts of undeniable attraction – because men being deliberately unkind always make women want to kiss them, right? Here they’re able to avoid the love-hate relationship, and while the path to true love is still fraught with difficulties, it’s much more Cat trying to avoid attachment to Andevai because she’s on a dangerous quest. One of the cool things about this series is that while Elliott has mixed the cultures up in new ways, except for the troll culture, they are all real historical cultures. There isn’t much room for Cat’s religion, but she follows the traditional religion of the people who call themselves Kena’Ani and whom the Romans call Phoenicians. She prays to Ba’al and Astarte, gods whom I’d been familiar with only from the Bible where they are the Evil Enemies of all Good Israelites. You know, as opposed to the gods of Greece and Rome and the Norse, who don’t really figure in the Bible and whose mythology we read straight up. This perspective shift fascinates me, though it was really a tiny part of the book. Elliott still does an amazing job with keeping a large cast of characters and multiple plot lines straight, in this series, all told from Cat’s perspective. Even though there’s plenty of darkness what with constant danger, threats on people’s lives, and emotional uncertainty, I found this deeply satisfying to read.