Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Cold Burn of MagicCold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep (Black Blade #1)

Genre: URBAN FANTASY, YOUNG ADULT

Publisher: K-Teen on April 28, 2015

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

My thanks to K-Teen and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

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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…

YA Review Icon Urban Fantasy Icon fpb_cute_icons-08

 Jennifer Estep is back with a new YA urban fantasy series, and it does not disappoint!

Welcome to Cloudburst Falls, a quaint little tourist town that capitalizes on their reputation as the most magical place in America. There are cute pixies serving customers at diners, magical themed attractions, even people battling it out with swords. That’s right y’all, people in Cloudburst Falls calmly carry swords around in the open. No guns though. We wouldn’t want anything dangerous out and about (ha)! But underneath the surface of this little town, dark things are stirring…

A war is brewing amongst the Families, the magical mobsters who control the town’s various industries and interests. The Sinclairs and the Draconis are heading towards an inevitable confrontation, one that the young thief Lila Merriweather hopes to avoid at all costs. Lila has no interest in choosing sides, merely exploiting the Families’ weaknesses in order to rob them and turn a meager profit so she can graduate high school and get the hell out of dodge. But when her fighting skills and her Talents (magical abilities) catch the eye of a Sinclair foot soldier, Lila fears she may have no choice in the matter.

Lila is one of those rare YA heroines who is exactly as tough as the rumours – and her own admissions – make her out to be. You have to be pretty badass to be approached by the Sinclairs, one of the most powerful Families in town, and then be asked to work as bodyguard for the young heir to the empire. Well, not so much ‘asked’ as ‘extorted,’ but the testament to Lila’s badassery stands. The girl kicks ass in hand to hand with guys twice her size, and she’s wickedly good with a sword. The girl has killer instincts…literally. Lila talks a big game about how she only cares about herself, which of course isn’t true because a protagonist with no friends or allies is a difficult sell; but the people in her inner circle are few, and everyone else is fair game on the Lila Merriweather chopping block. If you come at her with a sword or cross her, Lila will seriously mess you up and ensure that you’re sleeping with the fishes. ß Those of you who’ve read COLD BURN OF MAGIC will know that’s an intentional pun, but true nonetheless.

While the world building was fantastic, it was really the motley cast of characters that sold me on COLD BURN OF MAGIC. From the Sinclair matriarch to Lila’s con artist mentor Mo, none of the characters were entirely what they seemed. I was especially pleased to find that Jennifer Estep avoids the ‘mean girl’ clichés that are so often upheld in YA. Mob princess and daughter of the most vicious Family leader in town, Dreah Draconi is perfectly capable of falling into that shallow characterization. But as Lila becomes more enmeshed with the Sinclairs she realizes that Dreah is a lot more than she appears. She might even be the only decent Draconi left in Cloudburst Falls, but only time will tell.

There are romantic sparks between Lila and Devon Sinclair, the boy she’s been ordered to protect with her life. But Lila’s no fool, and she realizes that there can be no distractions when you’re trying to protect someone from threats on all sides. With some cute moments and a teeny bit of angst, this romantic plot arc is firmly in the background – and I liked it that way. Estep teases us with just enough romance to keep things interesting but never overwhelms the plot or the main character arcs in favour of drama. And that’s exactly how I like my YA urban fantasy!

The world building and characters in Jennifer Estep’s COLD BURN OF MAGIC captivated me from the very first page. I flew through this novel in two sittings, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the sequel. I’ll definitely be picking up a finished copy of this one when it releases…and maybe even one for a friend!

What did you think of COLD BURN OF MAGIC? Who would win in a sassiness face-off, Oscar or Felix? If you haven’t read this one, who is your favourite legitimately “tough girl” YA heroine?

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  • I really need to read a book by Jennifer Estep, i keep reading glowing reviews about her books! I feel like haven’t read a good UF in a while, maybe this would be a good one:-D

    • I’ve only read her YA offerings, but based on how good they are I feel pretty secure in recommending all her books! Definitely check this one out, Tammy – it’s really fun and clever and the perfect pick me up.

  • Jennifer Estep and YA? Is this her first? I’ve seen a lot of her adult books floating around and I’ve always been curious. She’s another UF author along with Kim Harrison and Faith Hunter that I’ve yet to try 🙂

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    • No actually, Jennifer Estep has an entire YA series that’s already out called “Mythos Academy.” I didn’t read all of the books in that series (it didn’t grab me quite as much as COLD BURN OF MAGIC did) but they’re good too. Definitely give her a shot, she writes fantastic action sequences and badass heroines!

  • Sweet I like that the mean girl cliche is avoided and you are right this does sound like a refreshing change to the ya I’ve bphad bad luck with lately. I will look for it. Hopefully the library has it.

    • I’ve also had pretty bad luck with YA lately, but this one was definitely a winner! Just a great time all around, fun and quick. Nothing earth-shattering but really good. Fingers crossed for a library copy!

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I’ve not read anything by Jennifer Estep, but I like the sound of this badass protagonist.

    • Well if you’re ever in the mood for UF, I recommend her books! Her humour is snarky but not *too* snarky and I think you’d like that. The badass protagonists (in both her YA and adult offerings) are definitely a plus! 🙂