Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #21: Cold Steel

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #21: Cold SteelCold Steel by Kate Elliott
Series: Spiritwalker #3
Published by Orbit on June 25, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Epic Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 597
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

The fantastic conclusion to the Spiritwalker trilogy!

Trouble, treachery, and magic just won't stop plaguing Cat Barahal. The Master of the Wild Hunt has stolen her husband Andevai. The ruler of the Taino kingdom blames her for his mother's murder. The infamous General Camjiata insists she join his army to help defeat the cold mages who rule Europa. An enraged fire mage wants to kill her. And Cat, her cousin Bee, and her half-brother Rory, aren't even back in Europa yet, where revolution is burning up the streets.

Revolutions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue.

Cat and Bee have their work cut out for them.

Recommended by: Nafiza of Bibliophilic Monologues

First Sentence: “I was serving drinks to the customers at the boarding house when a prince came to kill me.”


My feelings for Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy have been all over the map, from boredom to fangirling to intense admiration to irritation. Most emotions it’s capable for me to feel about a book, I’ve felt somewhere along the way through this series. Though I’m not entirely satisfied with the way that Cold Steel concluded everything, the Spiritwalker Trilogy stands out in my mind as one of my recent favorites, and will remain a much loved part of my collection. Though I do not usually do this, my Cold Steel review will be spoiler-free for the series.

The biggest strength of this trilogy is Catherine (Cat). She’s a plucky, intelligent, clever, sneaky, passionate, impulsive heroine, and I love her to bits. Certainly, at times, she can be quite frustrating, unwilling to look past her own stubbornness, and she often races into danger without a thought. Also, she’s no sweet innocent; she will do bad or wild things, and she does not necessarily regret them. Cat is a powerful heroine in just about every meaning of the word.

Even better, Elliott does not fall into the trap that so many authors do of writing only one strong female character, afraid that empowering women in general would lessen the heroine’s specialness. Actually, pretty much every woman encountered within the pages of this trilogy is strong in one way or another, or perhaps more than one way. Cat’s cousin, Bee, for example, isn’t a fighter, but she can talk people into just about anything. Women are warriors, rulers, spiritual advisers, lawyers, and forces to be reckoned with. Also, these women are sexual beings, if they choose to be; the series is very sex positive, without a hint of slut-shaming. If you’re tired of epic fantasy where women are marginalized, Elliott’s series will be an icy breeze during a fire mage attack.

Of course, the fact that Elliott wrote one of my favorite fictional couples doesn’t hurt anything either. Cat and Vai have such powerful chemistry, and so much respect for one another, though it takes time to grow. They fight constantly, even in their most loving of moments, but they do not desire to change one another and they work through their relationship problems together. And, yes, they do have problems, as any couple composed of two such fiery people would.

Kate Elliott’s world building also deserves vast praise. She weaves together the mortal world and the spirit world into a visually stunning picture, all set in an alternate history version of our world. My memories of Cold Magic are too fuzzy for me to fully understand where that world diverged with this one, but I know it was cool. The cold and fire mages, the spirit courts, and the dragons are all conceptually fascinating and well-established.

Where the series lags, however, is in the pacing. Throughout Cold Steel especially, I had trouble keeping track of the flow of time. Partly, this is intentional, since time does flow differently in the spirit world, but that’s not where the problem really came from. I also feel like the concluding volume packed too much plot into the almost 600 pages, because I feel like characterization was not quite as strong, relying on what came before, rather than further developing the cast. As such, the rampant feels I had in Cold Fire were largely nonexistent. Cold Steel was an uneven read for me, with portions keeping me on the edge of my seat, and others just to be got through for the good stuff.

This first read through did leave some elements to be desired, but I also know that there are things I missed. Though I don’t keep too many of my books once I’ve read them, I’ll be keeping this series, and I plan to reread it down the road, hopefully picking up on even more of the positive points than I noticed this time through.

Favorite Quote:

“Never let it be said that I could not talk my way out of any trouble that I could not punch.”

Up Next:

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Renae of Respiring Thoughts suggested that series, which I’ve been remiss in reading. That review will be up later today, in fact. Thanks so much for suggesting it, Renae. It was time.

Want to tell me what to read? For more details, check this post.

2 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #21: Cold Steel”

  1. I’ve literally got it on my bookshelf to read next week and I agree with everything you said about this series, it is pure joy to read and there are so many strong and wonderful heroines in it to choose from ­čÖé Loved your non-spoilery review, Christina!

  2. Amy says:

    These aren’t really my type of book, but I’m so glad that you loved this one. The characters sound really great!

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