Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Book Review: The Frost Chronicles

The Frost Chronicles by Kate Avery Ellison
In the icy, monster-plagued world of the Frost, one wrong move and a person could end up dead.



Book One: Frost
Book Two: Thorns
Book Three: Weavers
Book Four: Bluewing
Book Five: Aeralis

(Note: there are also two novellas, Brewer and Fugitive, that take place between books four and five. I am totally buying them, but since I haven't done so yet, they're not included in this review.)

Amazon Summary (Book One):
In the icy, monster-plagued world of the Frost, one wrong move and a person could end up dead—and Lia Weaver knows this better than anyone. After monsters kill her parents, she must keep the family farm running despite the freezing cold and threat of monster attacks or risk losing her siblings to reassignment by the village Elders. With dangers on all sides and failure just one wrong step away, she can’t afford to let her emotions lead her astray. So when her sister finds a fugitive bleeding to death in the forest—a young stranger named Gabe—Lia surprises herself and does the unthinkable. 
She saves his life. 
Giving shelter to the fugitive could get her in trouble. The Elders have always described the advanced society of people beyond the Frost, the “Farthers,” as ruthless and cruel. But Lia is startled to find that Gabe is empathetic and intelligent…and handsome. She might even be falling in love with him. 
But time is running out. The monsters from the forest circle the farm at night. The village leader is starting to ask questions. Farther soldiers are searching for Gabe. Lia must locate a secret organization called the Thorns to help Gabe escape to safety, but every move she makes puts her in more danger. 
Is compassion—and love—worth the risk?
My Thoughts:

I have finally found an author who measures up to the marvels of Cidney Swanson. Surprisingly - or perhaps not? - she, too, is an indie author. Other similarities between the two: their breathtaking book covers drew me in where the back cover copy left me skeptical. Both women focus more on series than standalone novels. Finally, both write in forms of the speculative genre, be that science fiction or dystopian.


Of course every book has flaws. The Frost books had a few typos, and the fourth book had a couple of minor inconsistencies with the rest of the series. (Example: a book referred to as The Winter Parables in the other books was called The Snow Parables in book four. Not a huge deal.) The author kept mixing up peak/peek and, more commonly, pour/pore. The first book got a bit sensuous, but that actually faded out for the most part. (Not the romance - definitely not! - but the toeing-the-line-between-okay-and-not.) There was one random curse word in one book, which I think just missed editing. (Today's cursing didn't really fit the story world.) Other than that, though, the writing was spotless. Glorious vocabulary, a perfect blend of showing and telling, a strongly designed story world, unique and individual characters...

Speaking of characters, they're basically the heart of these books, and most definitely the best part(s). Whether you like a person or not, you come to love the author's brilliant depth and voice for each unique person, no matter how small their role. Who can Lia trust? Why is he acting like that? What does she want? Everything comes down to motivation, just as it should, and the motivations here are not lacking.

There is a love triangle that develops a little less than halfway into the series... but oh, how beautifully it was written. I have never seen a triangle so masterfully done - for a Hunger Games and Matched fan like me, that's saying something. This series leaves those books in the dust. Both boys are equally matched to the girl and both would be great choices, emotionally and logically. Both of them have lives outside the girl. No matter what, the triangle is neither pushed too far aside as to become pointless, nor honed in on to the point where it becomes irritating. Lia keeps her head through everything. In fact, she's probably the strongest, most sensible heroine I've met.

Actually, Lia's strength of mind annoys me sometimes. It was worst in book four, if I remember correctly. In her attempt to protect those she loves and stay true to her loyalties, she doubts anyone who has ever not been on her side. At least four times she had absolutely no faith towards characters that were clearly (to me, anyway) not as evil as she made them out to be. As Gabe eventually points out, "Is there anyone you do trust, Lia?" (That might not be the exact quote.) At least the other characters were both as aware of and annoyed by this major trust issue as I was.

I wish I could tell you about everyone in this book. Ann, the soft and sweet best friend. Gabe, the mysterious fugitive. Adam, the unreadable loner. Jonn, the crippled but capable twin. Ivy, the irritating younger sister who grows oh-so-much. Borde, the strange scientist. Korr and Gordon and Raine and the Mayor and Claire and Cat and Stone and Everiss...

Some character-driven stories are a bit lacking in the plot department, but nobody will ever be able to accuse the Frost Chronicles of this. The twists! The turns! The development! While I sort-of agree with another Amazon reviewer - the fifth book felt like it lacked something in plot - the majority of the storyline was just stunning. I laughed, I cried, and I never knew what was coming. Seriously. As a writer, I've gotten used to finding every book I read a bit predictable. I've learned to distinguish what's coming up before the average reader. We talk about that in my writers' group a lot. But even though there was enough foreshadowing and hints laid out beforehand, I got my predictions shockingly wrong. Every. Single. Time. This person's the bad guy! That place is where they'll end up! He's going to die! She's going to turn out to be this big secret thing!

I'm surprised I never got annoyed with the *BUZZZ you're wrong!* moments. I guess I was too enthralled with what actually ended up happening to care that I had no idea where it was going. Each book in the series gives enough answers for you to feel like the book ended, but leaves enough questions to pull you right along to the next book. If I had an issue with any of the books' setup, it would have to be the openings. They never picked up exactly where the last book left off, and they felt a bit abrupt. It was hard to get into the first couple of books. It got easier with each book. The last book had a prologue, which none of the others did. I liked it, but it didn't seem to quite fit the flow of the series - I'd prefer if it were just chapter one.

The last book was also the only one with an epilogue, but that fit perfectly. Without that epilogue, the entire series would be left incomplete. After such a long ride with these characters, it was nice to ease out of the story world. All loose ends are tied together. The epilogue's almost entirely telling, but it works. It's like the older Grimm or Anderson fairy tale style, back before showing was a thing, or like when someone tells you a story orally. Even though it broke all the writing rules, the epilogue was probably one of the best part of the series.

The Frost Chronicles, my lovely readers, are a glorious example of escape reading with morals. I may or may not be experiencing book hangover... and my expectations for modern teen literature have certainly been raised impossibly higher. Traditional publishing's got nothing on Kate Avery Ellison.

I won a free copy of the first ebook of this series through LibraryThing. Upon my request, the author supplied the other four ebooks for free in exchange for a single series-wide review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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