A. V. Mather Reviews: Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston's - "Frozen"

de la cruz-frozenFrozen is the first in a new dystopian fantasy series, co-written by the hugely popular Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston. It’s a bit of a genre-splice, featuring a blend of dystopia, fantasy, and dragons with a drop of mysticism thrown in for good measure. Fans of any of these themes will find something to entertain them here.

This story takes place in a future America, ravaged by wars and an ecological disaster that has left the land masses of earth blanketed in ice. Heat and food have become the chief commodities and survival is managed by martial law. The citizens have carved out a harsh and meagre life in what is left of the cities, sequestered from the rest of the country by perimeter barriers and armed guards. The wastelands beyond are frozen garbage dumps populated by scavengers, hungry wildlife and monsters.

Nat is living incognito in New Vegas, which has survived to become a frontier town with all of the associated vice and violence. To the casual observer, she is just another croupier in one of the larger casinos but beneath the disguise she belongs to a small percentage of people who carry the ‘mark’, a physical indicator which has led to persecution and flight. This genetic abnormality is much more than a mark on the skin, carrying with it strange abilities which link the group to a mysterious higher power. Nat experiences this as a voice in her head that guides her actions, urging her to embark on a journey that will unite them.

It was this voice that enabled her escape from prison and directed her to her current employment. The owner of this particular casino has something the voice wants, something that will aid her in the journey to find her people. Once Nat acquires it, she is advised to hire a group of mercenaries who keep themselves from starvation by performing dubious services. Together, led in secret by Nat’s inner guide, they set out on a perilous voyage to find ‘The Blue’, a legendary place of salvation which many pilgrims seek but none have so far found. It is here that Nat will discover that her destiny holds implications for the human race, earth and much more.

Readers of fantasy adventure should feel right at home with Frozen. Despite the weighty-sounding subject matter, I found it to be a light, easy to read story that just skims the surface. A ‘don’t think too hard’ book where everything makes sense, sort of, and follows a path of exposition without delving too deeply into anything.

I must admit that I found it difficult to care much about any of the characters. For my taste, they were a bit stereotyped. Of course, stereotypes and archetypes serve their purpose, but I prefer new slants on, and explorations of, characters. I was disappointed that I found exactly the same people here as I would in many long-running sci-fi adventure series: the damaged and special heroine, the tough guy with a sensitive interior, the rag-tag group of mercenaries – a couple with hearts of gold, a red shirt and a couple who are beyond redemption. Having said that, some readers will find this comforting and enjoy it all the more for that familiarity; or maybe, they’ll be discovering these character types for the first time.

Frozen is certainly appropriate for a YA readership but probably not for the Middle Reader edge of that range, and I am certain that there will be an instant audience for the series. I have not read any other of Melissa de la Cruz’s books, but I see that they are many and all of the supernatural variety, so this new series will not disappoint her many fans and probably win her some more.

Look out for the follow-up, ‘Stolen’, which is being released in the Northern Hemisphere in Spring 2015.

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