Monday, August 5, 2013

Frozen, But What Can I Do?

Expected Publication:  September 17th, 2013
Frozen (Heart of Dread #1)
By: Melissa De La Cruz & Michael Johnston
Putnam Juvenile
ISBN-13:  9780399257544

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.

     Natasha 'Nat' Kestal is living in the city of sin, New Vegas, as a blackjack dealer.  All she wants though is to find a way out and to the mythical land known as the Blue - which may or may not actually exist.  In a world with nothing but pockets of land left, floating in a sea of toxic waters, the Blue is said to be a land of pure water, sunshine and perfect days.  Nat has a secret though - she is marked, one of those that the government wants nothing more than to exterminate for their special abilities.  When she out-hustles cocky ex-military guy Ryan Wesson, Nat turns around and hires Wes and his crew to sail her out to find the blue.  Drawn to each other, but both wary and hiding secrets, Nat and Wes must learn to trust one another and make some difficult decisions.  If they're both going to survive and make it to the Blue, the time will come to tell the whole truth.  But could that be just as deadly as the secrets they keep?
     I went into this with a bit of hesitance, seeing as when a mysterious 'co-author' is suddenly introduced, it's usually code for "this person is my ghostwriter and I've given up on hiding it."  Thankfully, the difference in the alternating third-person omniscient point of views is distinctly and obviously written by two separate authors.  That said, this was by no means the best book that I've ever read.  Most of the time, reading it was like a cross between an action movie (a la Waterworld), a cheesy romance and a hard boiled noir.  I found myself struggling to get involved in the story at first, but once they finally get out of the city things began to pick up for me.  I loved the character development on the side characters, like Shakes (whose loyalty is beautiful) and the 'little men' that are rescued by Wes' crew from the pirates.  I did feel like I was reading character types, more than actual characters at times with Nat and Wes. 
     There is something that was bothering me about the world-building, sitting in the back of my mind nagging at my suspension of disbelief.  If the water was so toxic, how could there be fish in it that were alive and safe to eat?  And with that in mind, why the HELL weren't they just melting/boiling the damn ice for a water source???  If your whole world is covered in ice, you'd think there'd be a way to utilize that!  I guess that wouldn't make for a very interesting plot though, and would eliminate pretty much the entire conflict of the novel.  So I suppose I can live with that particular plot hole! :)  Even if it is a pretty large one.  This book reminds me of watching an action movie, and that is probably what saved it for me as a reader.  There are some interesting elements to the world-building besides the non-believable water shortage and it did make me do some thinking.  Where the authors lost me was near the end when the fantasy elements came into full swing and added in a dragon.  I guess I'll just have to wait and see if I decide to read the second book when it's released.  If you're able to glibly read some actiony fluff, you may enjoy this.  Otherwise I'd advise you to avoid it.  Unless you live for cheesy, bland romances.  Then you may like it with complete seriousness, heaven help you!
VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication is September 17th, 2013.*

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