Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Format: ebook, Trade paperback
Pub Date: May 2015
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 368 pages
FTC: ARC courtesy of the author/publisher at RT 15

Disclaimer: I do not normally read YA. At all. The closest I came to YA were books written before we carved out that demographic as a genre (Outsiders) or the latter Harry Potter books. So what I'm saying is I'm not your average YA blogger/reader. Make of it what you will.

I picked up this book at the RT Booklovers Convention held in Dallas back in May. I've had it in my car pretty much since then, because an emergency book is as important to me as a first aid kit. I have to have something to read and my phone doesn't always have battery life.

Enter soccer season.

I finally had some time where I could actually concentrate enough to read, and despite my misgivings about YA as a whole, this book just sounded fun. Plus it was written in first person *past* which I love. (First person, present is an auto-no for me which is a big reason for my YA resistance). 

This book is the first in the Black Blade series. Unlike a ton of fantasy series' first books, Jennifer Estep does not bore you to tears with the world building. It's there, but it builds organically. No info dumping. No dense explanation of what makes the world different. Nothing to drag you out of the storytelling, which is nothing short of fabulous.

 The basic premise is a magical tourist town that is controlled by mob-like magical families. Our protag, Lila, is a thief who secretly lives in the basement of the town library and steals things on commission for a local pawnshop owner. Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, she finds herself thrown into the world of the elite and powerful Families after she saves a member of the Sinclairs during an ambush.

What sets this book apart for me is the complicated way the author weaves together the various story threads. There's Lila and her past. There's the complicated conspiracy she's dropped into the middle of. There's her reluctant attraction to the person she's supposed to be protecting. All of these conflicts are delicately balanced in a way that doesn't drag down the fast pace of the novel. It's engrossing,  emotionally deep, and just plain fun. That's a tough thing to pull off.

I have a reluctant (almost) teen in my house. One who hates to read. Hates it. He's the living refutation of the old "parents who read raise readers" refrain. But he loves Jonathon Stroud's Lockwood & Co. books. They have spooky things and swashbuckling. There are swords. There's adventure. There's action. There's sass. He hates fantasy books, but I think I this one can sneak past that prejudice because it has that same vibe. The same gritty depth. And let's not forget about the swords.

This is a promising series, and I'm so glad I read this book when I did. Book 2 is due out later this month.

My Grade: A-

The Blurb:

There Be Monsters Here. . .

It's not as great as you'd think, living in a tourist town that's known as "the most magical place in America." Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power.

I try to keep out of it. I've got my mom's bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick.

But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend's pawn shop, and I have to make a call--get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn't. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I'm stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I'm going to end up just like her. . .

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