Cold Steel by Kate Elliott
|Book Name:||Cold Steel|
|Formatt:||Paperback / eBook|
|Genre(s):||YA Fantasy / Steampunk|
|Release Date:||June 25, 2013|
The last installment of the Spiritwalker trilogy, Cold Steel follows the further adventures of Catherine Bell Barahal as she tries to save her cousin Bee who walks the dreams of dragons, her half brother Rory who is a saber toothed cat of some kind, and her husband Andevai the cold mage. While she’s running from two armies. And the Master of the Wild Hunt. And the cold mage houses. And a twisted fire mage. And campaigning for major social revolution. While broke. And wanted for murder(s). Somehow, Cat has to make all of that work without getting herself or her family killed in a wide variety of unpleasant ways or causing any more wars than are already going.
The timing of events could have felt very jerky at times. Some of the long periods of polite incarceration seemed distinctly shortened. The journeys through the spirit world tended to throw curveballs into the story because time functions differently there than everywhere else. Since all of these things would also throw the characters off in narratively significant ways, I didn’t mind at all and it helped that the characters used spiritwalking as an escape of last resort.
When a series is locked into one point of view, there’s always a risk that the story will become myopic to anything except the trials and tribulations of the narrator as they navigate through the story. In Cat’s case, this never happened for long as Bee or Rory or any number of other smaller characters pointed out when she was wrong, when Cat was sulking over Vai, or any of the other thousand things that could bog her down and prevent Cat from getting things done. Cat’s relationship to all these other people is of paramount importance to getting her to try to solve problems and to stop and think about the fallout to her actions.
Because all those supporting characters are important to Cat and their opinions are important to other characters as well, Rory, Bee, and Andevai have a lot of detail to them and all of them are so delightfully different from each other. Vai is smart, attentive and caring but sometimes a blind, arrogant idiot as well. Rory is happy-go-lucky, gently flirts with practically everyone, but also is willing to help when things get serious and thinks like the saber toothed feline he sometimes is. Bee gets treated as a prize for much of this series, but everyone finds out to their profound chagrin that they have completely underestimated her skills as an orator and revolutionary leader. Cat is just as guilty as everyone else in her oversights and it was lovely to see all these characters play off of each other’s strengths and shore up their weaknesses.
Since Cat travels extensively through Cold Steel, it was made easier to see the broader aspects of the war between General Camjiata and the legates and cold mage houses was shot through with the need for broad social changes and the need for a more representation based system of government that would last beyond the aftermath of the war. Furthermore, it was a nice juxtaposition of different aspects of how culture was organized in the Antilles versus Europa, how cold and fire mages fit into both, and how power was entrenched differently in both. There was a great deal of attention spent on how one enacts changes into the legal codes so that they stick and are less vulnerable to the next would-be tyrant. I found it rather interesting and relevant to how such things are supposed to work today and how change is implemented on the societal level.
The alternate history of the Spiritwalker world was beautifully diverse and dynamic. After focusing so much on the Amerikes, Europa and mention of North Africa, I really want a full atlas with Asia and Australia included. The range of peoples and cultures was amazing, as were the methods by which people rose to prominence within those settings.
I love the Spiritwalker series. It has everything I want to see more of in epic fantasy and an operatic sense of drama, humor, tragedy, and romance. I loved how the theme of revolution was maintained throughout. And I loved that Cat as narrator was such a dynamic character herself. It was wonderful and I would happily recommend reading it.