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Cold Magic by Kate Elliott

Cold MagicA review by Nalini Haynes

Cold Magic focuses on Catherine Barahal, Cat, a young woman who was raised by her extended family after the death of her parents when she was young. Very close to Bee, or Beatrice, her cousin, they have grown up like sisters. Both have some degree of magic although the nature of that magic differs; Cat can, for example, ‘cloak’ herself to become unnoticeable under the right conditions. Bee dreams the future. Cat is forced into a marriage against her will and extremely suddenly. Her new husband is a cold mage, a man of great power and yet great insecurity as other cold mages despise him for his peasant upbringing although he has more magical power than them all.

The marriage begins with a journey to the cold mage’s house, many days by carriage. On the way Cat becomes acquainted with her new husband, whose name she eventually learns is Andevai. They are pursued by mobs because Andevai destroyed a dirigible on behalf of his cold mage master whilst in the city to collect and marry the eldest Barassi daughter.

Set in a steampunk world with magic and fae, Cold Magic is a successful blending of genres. Elliott intertwines feminist, socialist and democratic themes throughout the narrative, providing intelligent dialogue without appearing to lecture. I really enjoyed this, as will fans of steampunk, fantasy, fae, Trudi Canavan and Jennifer Fallon, to name but a few.

Originally published in Dark Matter issue 5, September 2011.  This post has been pre-dated to reflect the original publication date.

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Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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