Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hell Froze Over and its Ugly!

Melissa de la Cruz is no newcomer to the world of the magical and supernatural. In her new series with her husband, Michael Johnston, however, she brings a whole new level to the Heart of Dread series with the first book Frozen. In this new series, you will see every manner of supernatural or post-apocalyptic element. It could have been like a literary version of a clown car, but instead, de la Cruz and Johnston knocked it out of the park. 

Nat escaped. She got away, but now she must hide in plain sight. As a dealer in New Vegas, it is easy to blend right into the woodwork while still standing in a busy casino day after day. In a world covered with ice, everything will do almost anything for heat credits to stay alive. But Nat has more to hide. She wears lenses to cover her eyes and never reveals her Mark because people aren't comfortable around the Marked and their powers. But when a guy comes to her table and clearly tries to run a con, she takes advantage of the situation and snags the life-changing heat credits off the table he was trying to scam. Now she has the opportunity to use the map she "acquired" not long ago. This map could lead her to the Blue, a place untouched by the pollution and chemicals that surround them all in this disgusting, frozen world. Now all she needs is someone to get her there. 

Wes had his chance. He almost had those credits, but the dealer had him captivated and he lost his chance. When he looked back, the credits were gone. Now he had to go back to his hungry crew empty handed and face the angry kids he was responsible for. He is getting desperate, but when a big job comes through to take some girl into the poisoned, polluted ocean, he agrees to take the job. Now he just has to get his boat back. What he doesn't expect is to see the dealer in front of him ready for her ride. There is something mysterious about this girl, something dangerous, but he doesn't scare easily, and he doesn't have much of a choice. His crew needs to eat. So they all head off into the ocean full of Trashbergs and dead of any life filled with water that will kill you on a mission that seems impossible. In a world full of magical folks, however, nothing is impossible. 

This book easily could have been "too much," easily, but somehow, by the end, the myriad of different elements seemed to work quite well.  In the beginning I struggled a little to make sense of Cruz and Johnston's world, but once I understood where all the different pieces fit together, it was quite an enjoyable story. For instance, this is a world that suffered environmental catastrophe, is covered with polluted ice, has no means to support itself through agriculture, and survives off synthetic food. That is enough for one whole book on its own. Then you add the magical folk who came out of the ice as it took hold of the world. First people were suspicious of the Sylph or the Smallmen, but then they realized the benefits of using these magical people. Quickly, however, paranoia grabbed hold and they began to imprison or do away with anyone magical, including the Marked, people born with a Mark and a gift. Then you add this magical place that has somehow avoided the environmental disaster that took down the rest of the world. And there is more, but I don't want to give it all away. Clown car? Yeah. Clown car that eventually worked? Yep!

I did struggle with this book at first, because it is so hard to figure out where all the wildly different pieces fit together. After I got about  100 pages into the book, it started to all pull together and then I got hooked. I have to admit I read the Blue Bloods series and loved it at first, but by the end I wanted to scream "enough already!" and that was directly tied to the path de la Cruz took that led her so far away from the original premise of the book. She does tend to overcomplicate her plots and then they lose their way quickly (can't have a story about witches- gotta through some Norse Mythology in there!). It has always been her downfall for me. Perhaps this series will be more successful because the 1001 elements are already out there and won't muddy the story later on, but I fear she is going to think, "Book 2? We need something new... how about evil, murderous pagan gods! Book 3? Where do we go with this one... I've got it! Animals who can walk and talk. Book 4? The Knights Templar!" and before you know it, you've got one big ole hot mess like the Blue Bloods. So, my biggest hope for this series is she knows how to edit properly and doesn't get carried away with trying to make it "exciting" by stuffing in entire kitchen pantry. This is a decent adventure series for both young adults and high-skilled middle readers. If they can figure out the complex beginning, they will really enjoy the adventure at the end. But remember, Melissa and Michael! Less is More!

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