Reviewed by: Margaret
Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars
Seventeen-year-old Lila Merriweather lives in “the most magical place in America.” No not Disneyland. Cloudburst Falls, West Virginia. The town attracts tourists by advertising its magical creatures, like tree trolls and the Lochness that lives under the bridge, as well as its magical residents. The “magicks,” as the people with Talents are called, comprise the Families that run the town.
Like organized crime families, they each have their own territory in which they collect protection money from the “mortals,” the people without powers, in exchange for keeping the monsters away. Each Family also controls a specific industry—one runs all the restaurants, one all the banks, etc. Also like organized crime families, they are constantly feuding.
Four years ago, Lila lost her mother because of a battle between the Families. She spent time in foster care, and then struck out on her own. Now she lives in the basement of the public library and works as a thief. She attends the mortal high school under an assumed name to hide her existence and her Talents from the Families. Then one day, she saves a Family member from an attack and finds herself working for the Sinclairs, one of the oldest and most powerful of the Families, and one of the last places she ever wanted to be.
I haven’t read Jennifer Estep’s other YA series yet, but I’m a big fan of her Elemental Assassin books. Lila has enough in common with Gin Blanco for this to feel familiar to me—the way that she lost her mother and the town run by crime families, for example. But it’s different enough that it doesn’t feel derivative. Instead of elemental magic, these characters’ Talents are based on the senses, like enhanced vision or hearing, or physical attributes, like super speed or strength.
That type of magic doesn’t lend itself to magical battles, but Cold Burn of Magic still has all the action of an Elemental Assassin book. From the first scene where Lila stole a necklace, fled across the rooftops and slid down a drainpipe to escape the guards, I was completely hooked. And I love that they fight with swords rather than guns or magic. They say it adds to the Renaissance Faire atmosphere the town cultivates for the tourists, but it also makes for some really exciting fight scenes.
Another thing I love about Estep’s books is the fun, supporting cast and that’s true here as well. I loved Mo, the pawnshop owner and Lila’s manager, with his endless supply of Hawaiian shirts and Felix, the consummate flirt, with his unexpected Talent. I also enjoyed Lila’s almost romance and I’m looking forward to seeing how that relationship develops later in the series. Most of all, I loved the political intrigue between the Families and trying to guess who was behind the attacks that Lila was trying to stop.
Cold Burn of Magic is a great start to this new series. I was totally engrossed and couldn’t put it down. I can’t wait for the next one!
Sexual content: none