Cold Magic (The Spiritwalker Trilogy, #1) - Kate Elliott When I decided to put Cold Magic aside, after 67% of very little pleasure and a lot of struggle, I felt pretty angry and offended. Angry, because reading these 360 pages took a huge effort and did not dole out the tiniest reward. Offended, because the book, written by an author with quite some published writing to show as a proof for her skills, made me question my ability to focus, my ability to absorb and understand what I read and - for a short, shocking minute – the functionality of my Kindle’s page-turning buttons. I think I would have met the same experience with more detachment had I bought a glowingly praised debut cheaply at Smashwords. Probably I would not have stayed as long on board of the shipwreck, but I would have said with conviction: It’s not me. It’s the book. It’s unreadable, but it shows room for improvement. But how can I say that about a book which has 1.800 ratings that produce an average of 3.8 out of 5? How can I say that about a book that makes others buy the sequels for good money? You see my dilemma. But I refuse to take the blame. I rather dance the Cha-Cha with my fury as a partner. And because I do not want to appear as someone impersonating Rumpelstiltskin without a plausible cause, I am going to breathe in and breathe out and defend my sanity.

I used to say that to me an enjoyable story begins and ends with likable, complex characters and a believable setting. To my own astonishment I have to step back from that opinion now. For I liked paranormally gifted Catherine "Cat" Hassi Baharal, her cousin Bee, enemy and love interest Andevai Diarisso Haranwy, a powerful cold mage and Cat’s newfound brother the easy-going, shapeshifting ladies’ man Roderic . And I admit that there are a lot of great ideas thrown into the world mix: A very alternative, slightly steampunky version of Europe, magicians, whose presence kills fire, a parallel spirit world, sabertoothed werecats, dragons, feathered lizard-like trolls. The combination should unquestionably trump superhuman jerks pursuing brainless, insta-love-seeking girls in front of a cardboard backdrop any day. It does not. For Cold Magic is not a story. It is a mess that needs to be chucked or rewritten from scratch.

Like most of the fantasy readers out here I am bored by long monologues meant to introduce the unfamiliar, fictional world and its inhabitants. I also find books that treat the reader like an old acquaintance, who is already in the know, pretty difficult. When I was reading Cold Magic I came to the point at which I desperately wished for the arrival of an enormous info dump to finally get me on track or for a scattering of some new and helpful puzzle pieces to add to my inner picture. Both wishes remained unfulfilled. In almost each chapter the same incomprehensible, unstructured information about the last millennium's world politics, the wars, the Hassi Baharal family, their niche in the world as spies, messengers, sailors, wandering scientists, sociologists and whatnot was repeated in different words, sometimes even by different means, like in a letter or as a part of a diary. But each repetition remained lacking, vague and foggy. If I were a drug user, I would surely have double-checked my dose. Instead I checked myself for lack of sleep, for symptoms of a beginning cold and for symptoms of beginning dementia. I hated these self-directed doubts, really hated them. And I have no reasonable explanation for the novel’s lack of structure. Maybe the author taught a beginners' creative writing class, threw the same keywords at each of the participants, had them write her heroine’s background, liked all results equally well and promised to use them all at some point of her next book? That cannot be, can it? But strange ideas like that flitted through my brains and messed with my sanity.

The aspects that made me look closer at my Kindle’s buttons were repetitions in the plot. I know that a normal road-trip plot contains some routine essentials: Scenery, clothes, food, sleeping arrangements. But a narrator could cut them short, if nothing important is to be conveyed by elaborating on them. For example, in each of the inns the carriage stops at the heroine is greeted by a detached, but matronly person and is then waited on by a red-haired, silent, young girl who brushes her long, black hair and praises it. Eventually I stopped reading in order to find out whether I really had made reading process or whether my Kindle had jumped to a scene I had covered some time before. My Kindle worked just fine. The book didn’t. And, as far as I know, there was no surprise reason presented later - like a flame-tressed wonder girl who could portal from inn to inn. Accordingly it is just senseless almost-cut-and-paste to emphasize how boring and monotonous a cross-country-trip can be? Or is it sloppiness?

In addition to those repetitions there is a lot of redundant rambling and straying from the straight, narrative path. Little Cat-Riding-Hood stops to pick flowers and chat with random wolves whenever she pleases, while the baffled reader stands aside nervously clutching grandmother’s lunch basket.

So, no. It’s not me, who is damaged. It’s the book. I am sure. And I believe that every reader who did not experience my discomfort has just been graced with a superhuman ability to effortlessly combine scattered puzzle pieces, find the odd herb among the weeds and straighten tangled stories in the back of her mind. Contented readers, you have my full admiration. Ordinary readers, you now have my warning.