Author: Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston
Narrator: Phoebe Strole, Dan Bittner
Series: Heart of Dread, book #1
Length: 7 hrs 51 mins
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Source: audio received from publisher for review
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible
From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.
Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.
At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.
But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.
As I was listening to this book, I kept thinking it felt familiar. As in, I think I've read it before. Or a story with a lot of similar elements, anyway. But instead of being a steampunk faerie story like The Iron Thorn, Frozen took a decidedly more post-apocalyptic turn. The differences are what make each book, though, so I'll focus on those instead of spending this entire review comparing the two.
The Setting - I'm not a fan of Las Vegas...never been and I've no desire to do so. The bright lights don't call to me, I'm not a gambler, and I live in Texas so I've had my fill of dry, deserted places. But in Frozen, New Vegas is much different from the city it is at present. Oh, there's still plenty of gambling and shady dealings and drunks. But this is post-disaster Vegas. It's cold, it's uninviting, and here, you trade for heat credits, not cold, hard cash. It was easy to get a sense of this version of Vegas, from the demeanor of the casino patrons to the types of services being offered. It wasn't all that hard to imagine, and I still don't think I like this version any better.
The Writing - This was my first Melissa de la Cruz novel. I didn't even know that Michael Johnston is actually her husband until I was doing a little research for this review. Apparently, the two have both been involved in her previous series, but this is the first true collaboration between them. I think it worked well, especially considering the dual narrative, because each of the main characters had a voice of their own, one that seemed to match their personalities. But I also don't think it was outstanding. I won one of the middle books in the Blue Bloods series ages ago and gave it away after perusing it a bit because the writing just wasn't on my level. If I'd received a physical copy of this book, I might have done the same.
The Characters - Protagonist who can't remember who or what she really is. Ex-military bad boy who can help her...for a fee.
The Narration - I've enjoyed audio performed by both of these narrators before, and so I knew that I at least wouldn't have any qualms with the narration. Phoebe Strole is good at portraying a strong heroine on a mission, which describes Nat to a tee. And Dan Bittner's repertoire consists of many roguish characters, so he was a good fit for the attractive runner Wes. I think it was their narration that made this book as enjoyable as it was.
I was going to rate this 3 1/2 stars and just round up to 4, but the more I think about it, and the longer I've had to compare it to that other book it reminded me of -- which, I should admit, is part of a series that I've all but given up on -- the more I think I should round down. There just wasn't anything decidedly special about the story, but I didn't hate it. I actually hadn't planned on reading it to begin with, but then I got the audiobook for review and decided to give it a chance and was surprised by how much I liked it at first. That might have a lot more to do with the narration than the actual story...I'm still working that out.
About the authors:
Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Publishers Weekly internationally best-selling author of many critically acclaimed novels. Her BLUE BLOODS series has sold over three million copies and her WITCHES OF EAST END series is now an hour-long television drama on the Lifetime network.
Michael Johnston is Melissa’s husband and heretofore “silent partner.” He is co-creator of the BLUE BLOODS and WITCHES OF EAST END series, and co-author of the WOLF PACT series. Melissa and Michael live with their daughter in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California.
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