The title of Jennifer Estep’s young adult urban fantasy Touch of Frost is very literal, considering the main character’s power. Whenever Gwen Frost touches a person or an item meaningful to a person, she gets “flashes;” images and feelings of that person, whether the person was angry, scared, happy, or in love. I hope Kiss of Frost (sequel to be released in December) will be just as literal; that is, Gwen better be sharing the love.
Gwen Frost is the new student at Mythos Academy, a boarding school where young men and women study English, Math, and Weapons Training, i.e. Gym. As children of Amazons, Spartans, and Valkyries, Mythos students are perpetually training to combat the Reapers, the followers of the Norse god Loki. Loki is the dark god who brought Chaos to the world before Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, defeated him. Gwen, however, cares nothing for the squabble, not quite believing in gods and goddesses, and feels like an outcast in a school full of beautiful athletes who seem to live their lives as if each day were their last. Things change when the most popular girl in school is murdered in the library – with only Gwen there to find her body.
Touch of Frost is fairly well done for a young adult urban fantasy, which I think is one of the hardest genres to write because it’s been done so many times. I like the idea of a school for warriors (which would actually work really well in comedy – samurais and Spartans sitting at a lunch table together? Hilarious.) And I like that each class of warrior has common traits; for example, Spartans, like hottie Logan Quinn, are easily the best brute fighters, and Valkyries have fighting skills as well as magic. I always wonder at the mixing of mythology in books, though, like the idea that Loki, a Norse god, and Nike, a Greek goddess, might interact, or fight in this case. Loki is the Norse’s trickster god. Do the Greeks have a trickster god? Hermes? Isn’t it problematic to have two cultures’ religious deities in conversation (euphemism!) with one another? Oh well, more power to urban fantasy!
The adults in this book do that annoying thing where they don’t tell the heroine anything about the mysteries of her own life, and instead say things like, “Trust me, you’ll know in time,” or, “You need to find out for yourself,” when it’d be so much simpler to just tell her. But I guess that’s all part of the growing process.
Estep does a good job of showing change in the main character, which makes me like Gwen. Gwen also makes some surprising friends and allies by the end of the book; characters who seem like completely different, almost throwaway characters in the beginning.
I give Touch of Frost 3.5 out of 5 Figmentopples. It is entertaining and complete, and Gwen’s likable; it just doesn’t have that quality (uniqueness, emotionally resonant characters) that makes readers want to gobble it up. I chewed slowly on this one, but I enjoyed it. Estep may not be new to the urban fantasy genre, but she is a newcomer to the YA community. And thank the gods (Norse, Greek, Egyptian, etc.), it looks like she’s here to stay!
If Axie were a book, she would be a young adult one featuring a kick-butt heroine in a fantastical setting, or maybe a middle-grade one about a boy coming-of-age (even though she is a 21 year old female). She likes to eat, watch shows (reality t.v., Korean dramas, and anime), read, read, read, sleep, and then dream (in that order). You probably can’t find her lolling about online, since her online presence is sorely lacking, but she is very friendly and would speak to you if you spoke to her.