Review: Cold Magic by Kate Elliott

Cold Magic (Spiritwalker, #1)

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott (Spiritwalker #1)
September 2, 2010
Fantasy, Steampunk
Paperback, 528 Pages

Reviewed by Tori

Favorite Quote:”When I saw you coming down the stairs that evening, it was as if I were seeing the other half of my soul descending to greet me.”

Catherine (Cat) Hassi Barahal’s life is about the change drastically when she is mistaken for her cousin and forced in to marriage with a cold mage she doesn’t know. When it comes to light that she is not her cousin, she is marked for death and runs for her life. As Cat flees her assassin, she discovers that her purpose in this world is greater than she has ever imagined and she alone may hold the key to it’s salvation or destruction.

This is my first time reading Kate Elliot and I was impressed by how much I enjoyed this debut series. Cold Magic is a convoluted alternative world set in early Victorian times that seems to mirror our history with some important differences; for instance, Hannibal wins against the Romans here. A steampunk adventure with fantasy and romantic undertones setting a stage that revolves around an orphan by the name of Catherine (Cat) Hassi Barahal.

A child of Kena’ani merchants, Cat’s parents died when she was young and she is raised by her aunt and uncle and with her cousin Beatrice. She is the eldest which plays an important role when a powerful cold mage appears claiming contractual rights to the eldest Hassi Barahal daughter. At some point in the past the Barahal family incurred the displeasure of the Four Moons House and had to promise an eldest daughter in marriage when she reached maturity. Cat’s aunt begs Cat to say nothing and soon she finds herself ripped from her home and married to Andevai. As Andevai and Cat travel towards his home she notices the tension and rising discord between those of science and those of magic. When they arrive at The Four Moons House and it is discovered that Cat is not the eldest Barahal daughter; Andevai is told to remove her. Cat escapes and finds herself on a dangerous journey of self discovery as she learns more about her heritage, her family, and the role she will play in it all.

I have to say I connected more with the characters then the world building. Not to say it wasn’t interesting because it was. The alternate history is interesting and quite well defined in it’s presentation. It started out slow for me I tried to grasp the main storyline. We are given history lessons at odd moments and it threw the rhythm of the story off for me at times.

However, as I found the cadence of the story it evened out and the pacing was steady from then on.

A strong undercurrent flows through the story as you watch the the deceptions and political intrigue play out along side Cat’s story. Ms. Elliott knows her stuff and she doesn’t bury you in information but rather parcels it out to play up our heroine. To me it was a bit complex and layered. I find myself lost at times. Could be I really don’t know my Roman history so I found myself unsure exactly what the past was presenting in contrast to reality.

However the action is non stop with an appealing mystery rife with tension and suspense. I found myself drawn in and hooked regardless of what I did or did not understand.

What really connected for me were the characters. Especially Cat. Her spirit and determination leaps off the pages as she is thrown from one extreme situation to another. I found her realism to be refreshing with her vulnerably and fear highlighted when most heroines seem perfect lately with only token flaws to try and keep them convincing. As she travels back to her family, I found her competence and pragmatic solutions to her situations unique and enjoyable. There were times when I really wanted her to do less talking and more doing. She rationalizes everything and often waxes on about it for awhile.

Her relationship with her cousin Bea is amazing. From her first trial she focuses more on getting back to Bea then the injustices she has endured. In the beginning they are described as opposites and you get the feeling this maybe a “Cinderella” type story. But not true. Their relationship is forged out of love, trust, and loyalty. They are best friends. When Cat makes it back to Bea, she is surprised to see she is not the only one who has matured. Bea has her own moment in the sun and it is quite a revelation.

Andevai was a enigma. Ms. Elliott does a fine job of presenting him as the young well favored scion. His personality throws me off in the beginning as he is not shown in a favorable light. His unveiling is presented so subtly that it’s not until the end that you realize the man you have been following is not the man you see before you.

The romance is subtle; more whispering thoughts then anything physical. Watching Cat and Andevai get to know each other and discover what was hidden beyond their first impressions was interesting. I enjoyed their chase and sparing.

All in all I found Cold Magic to be an enjoyable alternative historic fantasy that started out a bit slow and impatient but settles down quickly in to a captivating read. Being the first in a trilogy there is no concrete ending here but rather an acceptable stopping point is found and remains in effect until the next in the series, Cold Fire, releases in 2011.

Rating: B-

Recent Reviews
Dear Author – A-
Lurv ala Mode – 5/5

This Series Includes
Cold Magic
Cold Fire – 2011
Cold Steel – TBA

Author’s Website.


  1. Jenny says

    Alternate history stories are always interesting for me, I love the possibilities of what the world could have been if events had turned out differently. Love the sound of Cat as well, she seems like solid protagonist:) Fabulous review Tori!

  2. deannalynnc says

    Another great review! It's nice to see a brand new series emerging on a blog. So many lately have been a new addition to a series that is already out with a few books, so hard to keep up with everyone else reading the books. I might have to pick this one up over christmas break and see how I like it.

    Off topic, I saw that you said you like your e-reader much better then the print version of books, I must ask why do you say that? Just curious. I have a kindel as well and I do like it but I also love reading a printed version of books…something about all that paper in my hands and then when I get so close to the end I start getting excited because I know the end is near and we get the warm gushy happy endings feeling! :-D

  3. tori aka ggs_closet says

    Blodeuedd said-I enjoyed it immensely.The overall arc is enticing.

    Jenny-Thank you! Im really enjoying the alternative history stories that have come out lately.

    deannalynnc-There have been so many wonderful new series that have come out this year. Mandi is the one who loves her kindle bestest. lol I still prefer to read the dead tree books.

    Tena- Thank you. Yes, that quote made me one huge puddle after I read it.

  4. Mishel (P.S. I Love Books) says

    I really love the quote you chose for this book.

    I'm definitely interested in getting my hands on a copy of Cold Magic. Thanks for the great review =)

  5. tori aka ggs_closet says

    Mishel (P.S. I Love Books)-It a lovely story and I'm stoked for #2 to release.

    Melissa (Books and Things)-YEA! I hpoe you enjoy it as much as I did.

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