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Don’t Forget Your Long Underwear

Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston mix a lot of ideas into Frozen, the first in their co-authored Heart of Dread series, but the mix packs a punch.

Don’t Forget Your Long Underwear

BOOK REPORT for Frozen (Heart of Dread #1) by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

Cover Story: Hypothermia Doesn’t Look So Bad
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: She Said, He Said
Bonus Factors: Scruffy Looking Nerf Herder, Paranormal Creatures
Anti-bonus Factor: To Be Continued
Relationship Status: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Cover Story: Hypothermia Doesn’t Look So Bad

That woman is in serious trouble if that water’s as cold as the title suggests. Although, she looks peaceful. People do say that there’s a certain point where the cold doesn’t bother you any longer … But wait, is that a dragon?

The Deal:

Nat Kestal is one of the “marked,” a group of humans with extraordinary abilities that appeared/started being born after Earth froze over. In order to survive, Nat’s found herself a job as a blackjack dealer in the city of New Vegas, which, even on a planet that’s nearly dead, is still a hotpot of gambling and glitz.

After a bomb goes off in her casino, and a friend is taken from his apartment in the dead of night, Nat knows that her time in New Vegas is limited. She find a way to get out of the city and attempt to find the fabled “Blue,” an island portal to a place where the sun still shines and the air is warm. When she hooks up with Ryan Wesson (Wes), a hardened military hero turned mercenary, she finds herself on adventure full of danger, pirates, mysterious beings and a whole heaping of the unknown.

BFF Charm: Yay

Nat is a girl on the run. What’s left of the United States views the “marked” as diseased and dangerous, but Nat isn’t either: She has only ever used the talents she was born with for self-preservation. I totally get why she’s reserved and a bit cagey; were you to have been born into a world that mistrusts you and abhors you, regardless of how you are as a person, you might be too. But even with all that, Nat is a kind and loyal person, two “must-have” qualities for a good friend. Plus, she’s got a way with numbers, which would make her an awesome companion to have on a trip to Vegas—Las or New, it doesn’t really matter.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

From the moment Nat and Wes meet, the have an attraction that neither of them can deny, at least internally. Externally, they bicker and flirt and get mad at each other but then share gentle, meaning-filled moments … exactly the kind of antagonistic relationship that everyone around them knows will eventually turn into something way past friends. I love reading about this kind of relationship; I love the anticipation of what’s to come almost more than what comes after the first kiss.

Talky Talk: She Said, He Said

Frozen is told from the perspectives of both Nat and Wes, and although Nat’s story is the main one, hearing Wes’s POV adds to his character and progresses the story and the story’s romance nicely. One could make an assumption that Melissa de la Cruz wrote Nat’s parts and Michael Johnston wrote Wes’s—to give both characters the benefit of being written by someone of their gender—but there’s not really much distinction between the two voices, at least, not in a way that I could tell they were written by two different people. (The characters themselves are different, but they read like they belong in the same book, if that makes any sense?)

Both Nat and Wes are a bit world weary, and it might be easy to think that these are characters full into adulthood. But on a world that’s gone toxic, where food is scarce and cancer is a foregone conclusion, lives aren’t long: both Nat and Wes are around 16-years-old. It’s a bit confusing to read about these children having led such full and hard lives, but I suppose it makes sense once you think about the world they’re living in.

Bonus Factor: Scruffy Looking Nerf Herder

Wes is a total scoundrel. He’s a military man who, when he disagreed with the order he was being given, left the service and went into work for himself. He’s a smuggler—of both cargo and people—and a mercenary for hire. But he’s no murderer, and although he’s done some shady things, he still has a heart and a clear sense of what’s right and wrong.

One of my favorite passages in the book is about Wes:

Nat didn’t know what to make of Ryan Wesson—whether she wanted to slap him or kiss him. Slap him, definitely. He looked so smug, standing at her doorway, with his hair slicked back and his collar turned up, a gun belt slung low on his hips, his beat-up vest shrugged off his shoulders like some sort of snow cowboy, grinning as if he’d won the fireball lottery.

Tell me that doesn’t remind you of another military man-turned-rebel we all know and love?

Bonus Factor: Fantastical Beings

The reason why Nat and her kind—”marked” individuals that are more than human—exist isn’t really explained well, but they add an interesting element to Frozen’s plot. The marked run the gamut, from people who can read minds and have telekinesis to those who have premonitions and can predict the future. In this new world, there are also vaguely magical creatures such as smallmen, “grown men the size of toddlers who were gifted with rare talents for survival”; sylphs, “a race of beings of luminous beauty and awesome power”; and drau, “silver-haired sylphs with white eyes and dark purpose.” I’m certain these other races will play interesting parts the rest of the series.

Speaking of which ...

Anti-bonus Factor: To Be Continued

Frozen is the first in yet another trilogy. Things were just getting good, and then—WHAM—I turn the page and there isn’t any more story. I can’t blame authors for not wanting to write huge tomes which take them years and years and years (*cough*George R.R. Martin*cough*), but it’s so annoying to get to the end of a good book and find yourself TBCed (see also: ADT/another damn trilogy).

Casting Call:

Both of the main characters in Frozen are teenagers, but act older than their years, so you’ll have to forgive me for going older with these picks.

Rooney Mara as Nat

Nat is described as having dark hair and pale skin, and has an ethereal quality because of the combination. And although she looks fragile, she’s got a strength about her that doesn’t go unnoticed. Rooney can be both sweet and fierce, which is an excellent combination and quite fitting for Nat’s character.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Wes

There’s something about Aaron that makes me wary, yet he’s attractive and appealing at the same time. This confusion of emotion he causes makes him kind of perfect to play the “dashing rogue.”

Relationship Status: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

You’re not the most original of storytellers, Book, but the other stories that I saw behind yours are some of my favorites, and instead of copying anything outright, you wove their themes and ideas into new tales that come off as fresh and unique, if not brand-new. And although I grumble about having to wait for-ever for our next date, I’ll certainly be looking forward to it.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. I received neither peppermint mochas nor money for this review. Frozen is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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