Author: Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Genre: YA Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Original Publishing Date: September 17th, 2013
Series: Heart of Dread #1
Where I got it: Netgalley
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website
Synopsis from Goodreads:
"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"
Main characters: 3.5/5
Oh Nat. I am torn between loving her spunk and her determination to make it to Blue, and frustrated that she wasn't as independent and strong a heroine as I wanted. It was tough to get much out of her other than the fact that she is an orphan and that she is "marked" and has this power. I didn't get a lot from her personality-wise other than these facts. I liked what I saw of her, but I wish there had been just MORE. More everything. More background, more personality, and more passion. I also had a few scenes that I eye-rolled, all of which starred Nat feeling like she was a monster. Ok, I get it, but she didn't need to be so melodramatic about it.
Wes was pretty dreamy, not gonna lie. We do get more background about Wes and slowly but surely we find out tidbits about his past. I loved Wes' loyalty and his determination to do what was right, despite what might happen to him.
So, let's talk about Wes and Nat together. I liked how it started out slow: they may have flirted at the beginning, but that's natural and it wasn't out of place. The romance itself developed slowly for the most parts, but there were some slip-ups where both Nat and Wes had these intense internal thoughts about loving the other and I wish that the authors had cut those out. They weren't really necessary and brought in this feeling of insta-love that might not have been present otherwise.
Secondary characters: 4.5/5
I liked the cast of secondary characters. They were so diverse and each had a unique flair that added something to the story. Shakes was adorable and I loved his calm demeanor and his loyalty to Wes. I liked Liannon but she was a little flat. The authors could have given her more of a personality, in my opinion. Roark and Brendon added some diversity to the gang and they were adorable together. I loved hearing their interpretations because they were smallmen. Finally, Farouk was unique because of his 180 and I appreciated the different type of personality in the group. I guess in general there was a wide range of characters and they each played an integral role in developing both Wes and Nat, and the story. What more can you ask for from your secondary characters?
Writing style: 4.5/5
For the most part, I was a big fan of the writing. Paired with the world-building and concept, the writing sped the plot along and I rarely had any problems with the pacing. I found it really difficult to put Frozen down. Even though it was a long book, I felt like I could have gobbled more up. There were a couple errors and a couple fact inconsistencies that needed to be double checked, but those were relatively minor. I noticed that especially in the beginning few chapters, the writing was exceptionally elegant and beautiful, without being weighty and flowery. That is difficult to do, especially while keeping up the pace and action of the writing, and I applaud de la Cruz and Johnston for that.
Okay, first of all, what a concept! I love the setting of Las Vegas. It is such an interesting place that really captures my imagination because of the promise it holds and the different ways that people act there. I'll admit that I stalked a few Goodreads reviews before I typed up my own and I noticed that there were a few people out there who disliked the mish-mash of genres and creatures and mythology. I completely disagree (watch out, rant ahead). Hasn't the book-blogging community (or readers in general) complained since the beginning of time about predictability and lack of unique books/plots/worlds? Aren't we all sick of the regular dystopia or paranormal fantasy? I absolutely adored the risk that de la Cruz and Johnston took by combining post-apocalyptic with fantasy and I think it paid off. By combining these different elements, I was immersed in a world that was completely unique. To be fair, there were definitely some things that were confusing or could have been explained better. Why is the world frozen? Is it global warming or something else? There were also plot points that didn't make sense. Apparently California was completely lost but they travel to K-town in Los Angeles? Just a couple minor fact issues that needed to be addressed. But the world itself was fantastic. And the plot points were dead-on. I loved the constant action and the twists.
I am torn on the ending. On one hand, a lot happened all at once and it felt very rushed (the one spot that there were issues with pacing). The big secret is dropped and there is really no lead-in. One minute Nat is wondering what she is and the next she knows, but there is no explanation of how she knows all of this information. And then the action pushes through so quickly and things are happening that don't make a lot of sense. On the positive side, I like how the ending wrapped up the current conflict well and left the plot wide open for a lot of things that needed to be solved. There was no confusion or cliffhanger, but there was an effective desire instilled in me to read the next book, and that's exactly what I'm looking for in the conclusion to the first book of a series.
Best scene: There are countless amazing scenes but I really liked the scene where the gang rebels against the Slavers.
Reminded Me Of: Game of Thrones meets X-Men except in a frozen, post-apocalyptic world
Positives: World-building, plot twists, pacing, excitement, conclusion of conflict, cast of secondary characters, Wes, writing style
Negatives: Some hints of insta-love, needed more depth/background from Nat, some plot/writing/factual errors and inconsistencies, the speed and confusion of the ending, the part where Nat finds out her dark secret
Cover: I really like the cover. It's simple, elegant, and captures the feel of the novel perfectly.
Verdict: The concept and world-building of this novel are absolutely unique and the writing, characters and plot make up for the minor weaknesses.
Rating: 8.0 / 10 (5 stars)
Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!