Friday, May 22, 2015

ARC REVIEW: "Cold Burn of Magic" by Jennifer Estep

Cold Burn of Magic 
by Jennifer Estep
Book 1 in the Black Blade series

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.

After reading this book, I know one thing for sure; Jennifer Estep knows how to build a darn good magical world with just the right amount of Southern charm. 

In Cold Burn of Magic, book one in Ms. Estep’s new Black Blade series, we are introduced to the charming town of Cloudburst Fall, West Virginia – where the magical creatures are the focal point of tourism.  Underneath the pretty Disneyland-like façade is the dark and dangerous world of family dynasties and rivalries that put the mafia to shame – the Sopranos have nothing on these families.   

Lila Merriweather is a teenager that has been on her own, escaping the foster care system after her mother died.  She is a high school student currently living in a storage room at the local library. She survives by committing petty crimes and helping out her “Uncle” Mo, a friend of her mother and sometimes guardian.  Mo sends her out on “missions” to steal or reposes items from the rich.  Lila also has a secret. Although not obvious from the outside, Lila has special and unique powers that could make her a target for exploitation. 

Lila soon gets involved with the Sinclair family when she saves the favored son, Devon’s, life.  Through circumstances, she then becomes his bodyguard, following in her mother’s footsteps.  

I enjoy this new set of characters.  Lila is a survivor.  She is scrappy, living on the streets because she has to.  She reminds me of a young Gin Blanco from Ms. Estep’s other series, Elemental Assassin.  (I guess the comparison is inevitable, right?).  On the outside she is aloof, tough and thick-skinned. On the inside, she wants to see the good in people and situations.  She has skills, but more importantly, she has a huge capacity to care.  This is not a new type of character in the urban fantasy genre, but Lila’s is really developed well. 

Devon is a standout from one of the ruling families.  Despite the questionable behaviors of his family’s business, he has been able to maintain his goodness.  However, rival families target him because of his special gift. This is a risk that Lila and Devon share. 

There are great fight scenes, highly dramatic revelations, and just a wee bit of angst – enough to make the story interesting, but not too much to turn people off if you are not a YA reader. 

This story takes place in the Elemental Assassin universe.  There is mention of Ashland – home of The Spider, Gin Blanco.  This will, of course, invite comparisons.  But I found that it also helped me rediscover and appreciate Jennifer Estep’s creative and imaginative writing.  With a long running series like Elemental Assassins, where the context is familiar, it is easy to forget how difficult it is to continue to create something new and fresh.  That is what Ms. Estep does here.  She balances elements that are familiar with a fresh new set of characters and storylines that are attractive and engaging.  After I finished, two words flashed in my head, “Gimme more!”

Where you are a long time fan of the author or someone new to her work, this is a fantastic start to a new series. 

Thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.

Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin adult urban fantasy series for Pocket. Books in the series are SPIDER'S BITE, WEB OF LIES, VENOM, TANGLED THREADS, SPIDER'S REVENGE, BY A THREAD, and WIDOW'S WEB. THREAD OF DEATH, an e-novella, is also available. 


DEADLY STING, the eighth book, is set to be released on March 26, 2013.

Jennifer also writes the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington. 

Books in the series are TOUCH OF FROST, KISS OF FROST, and DARK FROST. CRIMSON FROST, the fourth book, is set to be released on Dec. 24, 2012.

FIRST FROST, a prequel e-story to the series, is available as a download. HALLOWEEN FROST, an e-short story, is available in the ENTANGLED e-anthology.

Jennifer is also the author of the Bigtime paranormal romance series. Books in the superhero-themed series are KARMA GIRL, HOT MAMA, JINX, and NIGHTINGALE. A KARMA GIRL CHRISTMAS, an e-story, is also available.

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