I had no idea Jennifer Estep wrote young adult novels. You probably didn’t either. Actually, you may not even know who I’m talking about. Let me backtrack. About a year ago, I won a contest over at The Book Smugglers (pretty awesome, right?). The prize: two adult urban fantasy/paranormal novels by Ms. Estep. I was happy, but wary – I’ve been burned by that genre in the past, and I had no experience with the author. BUT! The Elemental Assassin series is awesome. The main character, Gin, is an assassin/restaurant owner with magical powers, and she lives in a fictional southern metropolis. Her adventures are dangerous and exciting. As I said: AWESOME.
Fast forward to last week or maybe the week before, when I was cruising through ‘Waiting on Wednesday’ selections. There it was: a YA by Jennifer Estep, called Touch of Frost. After I got over my shock, I was very pleased. And then Tirzah at The Compulsive Reader sent me a copy, and I went from pleased straight to dance-around-my-room-happy.
My name is Gwen Frost, and I go to Mythos Academy — a school of myths, magic and warrior whiz kids, where even the lowliest geek knows how to chop off somebody's head with a sword and Logan Quinn, the hottest Spartan guy in school, also happens to be the deadliest.
But lately, things have been weird, even for Mythos. First, mean girl Jasmine Ashton was murdered in the Library of Antiquities. Then, someone stole the Bowl of Tears, a magical artifact that can be used to bring about the second Chaos War. You know, death, destruction and lots of other bad, bad things. Freaky stuff like this goes on all the time at Mythos, but I'm determined to find out who killed Jasmine and why—especially since I should have been the one who died…
I think one of the things Estep does best is create a likeable heroine. Gwen has insecurities and knows she’s different (and maybe not in a good way), but part of her charm is that she’s so very self-aware. She’s constantly analyzing and connecting information; pairing her curiosity with knowledge. She has a self-effacing, funny voice, and it makes for spot-on inner dialogue.
Now, this isn’t to say that a cool heroine is all that Touch of Frost has to offer. Estep has also created a believable place in the school Gwen attends, the Mythos Academy. Sure, not all of the T’s are crossed nor the I’s dotted, but I know I spent the book immersed more in its world than in figuring out what was wrong with it. That isn’t to say that I don’t have questions. First one: who does all the dirty work at this extra-fancy prep school? But those things can be answered in future books, or may just be unanswerable forever.
Other fun factors: the smart teenage banter, different ‘types’ of students, boy with mystery (and delayed gratification, what?), unexpected friends and a very, very cool library.
What I didn’t like: Good Lord above, what is it with repeating descriptors? First Kady Cross couldn’t keep Finley from blushing in The Girl in the Steel Corset, and now Estep transgresses again and again with Gwen’s ‘violet eyes.’ I get it already! There were a couple of other bits that I thought should have been caught in editing (the same revelation twice, and an inaccuracy about how swimming times work) as well. Added to that, we’ve got typical boarding school clichés and bad boy crush. BUT. I am here to tell you that in spite of that, this book was fun, I liked it, and I can’t wait for Gwen’s next adventure.
Touch of Frost wasn’t perfect, but it was quick reading, and a great pick for summertime fun. I’m definitely in LIKE. Kiss of Frost, the next in the series, comes out in November, and in the meantime there’s a prequel out called First Frost (but read this book first, do).
Recommended for: anyone with a penchant for mythology, fans of the Percy Jackson series or the X-Men comics/films, and those who like their teen lit set in boarding schools. Also perfect if you’re in the mood for a fast-paced tale featuring a curious and courageous heroine with a bit of an outsider-complex. And, you know, general awesomeness.
Touch of Frost will be released by Kensington Teen on July 26, 2011.