[ARC Review] Cold Burn of Magic – Jennifer Estep

Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1)

Author: Jennifer Estep

Series: Black Blade #1

Publication Date: April 28th, 2015

Publisher: K-Teen

Number of Pages: 368

Genre: Fantasy, YA, Mystery, Romance

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


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. . .


I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

So the only real reason I requested this book from Netgalley is because Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series has a huge following at my school. There’s a few girls that begged to Skype her and I think she lives somewhere in Kentucky? I’m probably mistaken but either way, my interest was piqued. So when I saw her book go up on Netgalley, I decided I could try out her books that way.

Anyways, the book begins with a fast-paced robbery. Lila Merriweather is stealing a ruby necklace from a rich accountant’s home while on a job for her boss and friend, Mo. It sets up the action and character of Lila really well and it pulls a reader in effectively. At this point, I was really excited to continue reading it and would even pull it out in the middle of class time.

But after the exposition? It all just went downhill.

The plot felt childish. The name of Mo’s store is Razzle Dazzle. I literally had to stop reading and just contemplate my age when I read that. It made me feel like I was reading a children’s book instead of a YA novel. The plot itself is supposed to be about feuding families that are fighting due to… reasons that I don’t want to spoil. I felt like I was reading a book with juvenile, petty, family gangs (which is again, going back to the childish aspect). It’s supposed to be dangerous, exciting, and suspenseful. Instead, I felt bored and unentertained. And at the end, when it begins to pick up? Not much better. The ending is cliche and way too convenient.

I didn’t like the writing style. It was repetitive and all telling, not showing. Every single character’s outfit, meal, introduction, etc. is written in full detail. I don’t know if other people mind, but this style of writing is one of my pet peeves. I feel like it detracts from the plot of the novel by forcing us to pause and read descriptions rather than being able to envision it while the plot continues. But this wasn’t necessarily the biggest problem I had with the writing. I really, really disliked how the first few words of a sentence were continually repeated for dramatic effect. It’s not even just one character though. It’s Lila’s internal thoughts, her dialogue, and every other character’s dialogue. There are other ways to represent anger, sorrow, and deep emotion besides just repeating the first few words.

Example with Devon repeating….

“You should take off, Lila. Forget about staying here. Forget about the Family. Forget about me.” (ARC 167)

Example with Lila….

“…but I didn’t. Not from them. Not from this. I’d never had a chance. Not since my…..” (ARC 60)

I actually thought that Lila would grow on me. Instead of being headstrong and confident like she’s portrayed to be, I ended up feeling as if she were inconsistent and a real bitch. I hated her. There were times when I thought that she was being way too rude and times when I seriously just didn’t understand her.

She claims that she will never love or like anybody. But as soon as any male enters the scene (and I mean any), she’s checking them out. She describes their “brown, hard skin”, “blue eyes”, and “strong, defined muscles”. It’s too much. Way too much.

In terms of the fantasy powers…. it felt like a cop-out. Lila is given two powers – transference and soul-sight. One is cool. I’ve never heard of the power of transference. It’s unique and actually a great addition to the plot for several reasons. The soul-sight? Well I thought it felt like a lazy excuse to skip over any relationship development. With soul-sight, Lila is able to figure out the emotions a character feels and why at any given moment by looking into their eyes.

Probably what her power looks like in action

Probably what her power looks like in action

Every character’s emotions are directly handed to us through Lila’s soul-sight. There is almost never a time when Lila needs to uncover a person’s emotions manually (via something like CONVERSATION). I’m still trying to figure out how nobody feels violated by her power. I don’t know anybody that likes having their emotions ripped out of their mind (Okay not ripped but nobody likes being that transparent). In this way, all the friendships and romantic relationships involving Lila are rushed and lack the rewarding build-up of a well-written romance. Lila doesn’t need to develop the understanding of a person because it’s all given to her.

Even with those technical things that bothered me, the story itself was actually not that bad. It was interesting in some parts, dramatic in others. I can see where Estep has a huge following because there are definitely aspects of Cold Burn of Magic that would appeal to many.

So overall, my foray into Estep’s writing was not as great as I’d hoped for. I’m not really interested in reading any more of her books since I’m not a fan of her writing. However, I’ve heard that a lot of others really like it so it looks like I’m the black sheep again.

2.5/5 Stars


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