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Cold Magic (The Spiritwalker Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The first installment of Elliott's Spiritwalker trilogy puts a decidedly steampunk edge on epic adventure fantasy. The setting is a pseudo-Victorian Europe at the emergence of an industrial revolution, replete with dirigibles, gas lights, and great political and social upheaval. The unpopular cold mages believe that the "reckless tinkering" of radical scientists and natural historians will destroy society. Irreverent orphan Catherine Hassi Barahal mostly thinks about staying out of trouble and finding out about her mysterious explorer parents, but when a cold mage shows up to collect on an old contract, Cat is forced to marry him and undertake a nightmarish journey across an ice-covered country in which she learns frightening things about the mortal and spirit worlds. After a slow start, Elliott pulls out all the stops in a wildly imaginative narrative that will ring happy bells for fans of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


It's a definite hands-down great read ... the characters, the mysteries, the background history, the cultural complexity, were all so intriguing I couldn't stop reading Elizabeth Moon An exuberant narrative with great energy and inventive world building ... I utterly loved it FantasyBookCritic An entertaining read SFFWorld.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: The Spiritwalker Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; Reissue edition (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031608087X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316080873
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.5 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #638,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kate Elliott lives in Hawaii, USA. In addition to the Crossroads series and the Crown of Stars series, she is co-author of THE GOLDEN KEY.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Cold Magic is my first introduction to Kate Elliott's work, although I can't count the number of times I have picked up King's Dragon (Crown of Stars, Vol. 1) and then put it back. I don't remember now why I never bought it. So in respect to her other works, I can't compare this first book of the Spiritwalker trilogy. I can say that I really enjoyed this book and I will probably get into the Crown of Stars series (or one of her other series). I certainly understand why this book is recommended to fans of the His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass) trilogy, which happens to be one of my favorites.

Cold Magic is a steampunk tale with a science-vs.-magic twist (I haven't really encountered science-vs.-magic before). The main character, Catherine Hassi Barahal, is a young university student more inclined towards science when she is thrust ceremoniously into the clutches of the cold mages. Soon enough, the true danger of her situation is made clear, leading to great steampunky fantasy adventure.

Victorian sensibility--generally part and parcel of steampunk--and I aren't on speaking terms, and my only previous experience with steampunk is the His Dark Materials trilogy. Nevertheless, I plunged headlong into this story and I couldn't have enjoyed it more. All characters are fleshed out: primary, secondary, tertiary, even...uh...fourth (quaternary?). Every character's presence adds to the story, no matter how small a part s/he may play. Catherine is a wonderful character, equally flawed and endearing.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Comment 49 of 55 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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My original review:

This is a fun, entertaining book, which I picked up because the setting sounded interesting (Industrial Revolution-inspired alternate-Earth fantasy), and which, once it got going, proved to be such a compelling read that I devoured it in a couple of days when I should have been doing other things. It has its flaws (and a few slow spots, the first 50 or so pages in particular), but enjoyment counts for a lot.

The plot centers on Cat, the narrator, as she's abruptly married off to a stranger in payment for a family debt, then forced to flee for her life across the icy alternate-English countryside. Cat's adventures entertain, and I enjoyed her voice a lot: those who have called the narrative "energetic" are right on the mark, and Cat is original enough a character to be consistently interesting. For that matter, the main characters are well-characterized generally; they have strong personalities and are individuals rather than stereotypes. A lot of readers dislike the love interest, and he can certainly be unpleasant, but I was so pleased to see a male lead in a fantasy book who isn't a cookie-cutter copy of hundreds of other male leads that I didn't mind. Their dynamic isn't the most healthy, but it's very human: she's attracted to him although she doesn't especially like him, and he cares for her but has a lot of other priorities that come first. I'm interested to see where this goes and as long as Elliott doesn't water it down with some lame explanation about how all his unpleasant behavior was actually calculated to protect her (which often happens with ill-mannered love interests, although it seems unlikely here), I find it good reading. And in all honesty, I'm a sucker for difficult, angsty romance, so this one hit the spot.
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