Frozen: Heart of Dread, Book One
As I began reading FROZEN: Heart of Dread, I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding the secretive and feisty Natasha “Nat” Kestal, one of two protagonists. My interest continued to pique as the dystopian earth of Melissa de la Cruz and Ryan Johnston unfolded before me. The characters were interesting, and the plot moved with fluid pace. The story was building toward a captivating climax until the second half began, in which the quality of both the characters and plot declined significantly. The novel ended with a rather large and unexpected deus ex machina --- when some new event, character, ability, or object solves a seemingly unsolvable problem in a sudden, unexpected way --- and the disappointment that followed more or less describes the book. Overall, FROZEN is a book that contains great promise that unfortunately ends on a sour note.
"Cruz and Johnston’s vision of a shattered planet earth is also fascinating, with just enough detail to be realized but with enough mystery to want the reader craving more..."
The first half of FROZEN was enthralling due to the characters and the world they live in. Nat is a character shrouded in mystery from the beginning. She lives in a world that hunts and fears those like her, people with strange and mystical powers that are given away by their beautiful eyes, and she desperately hides behind tinted contact lenses in a once bright city that still thrums with sin, New Vegas. Ryan “Wes” Wesson, the other protagonist, draws the reader in with his hints of a dark past and his compassion for others, and even though the romance between the two is predictable, it rarely feels rushed or forced. These two characters and their interactions with each other and the world around them are a major part of what drives the story forward. Wes’s ragtag crew of mercenaries also makes for dynamic and interesting company as Nat and Wes journey over a post-apocalyptic landscape. Cruz and Johnston’s vision of a shattered planet earth is also fascinating, with just enough detail to be realized but with enough mystery to want the reader craving more, which fits the novel’s place as the first installment in its series. All of these elements make first half exciting and fun, but they give way to disappointment as the second half unfolds.
The second half more or less begins with the introduction of a rather dull character, Lianna, a sylph, mysterious fairy-like beings that are the stuff of folklore and legend. While she is not all that is wrong with the second half, her introduction signals the book’s decline, as the build-up that had accumulated so well starts to wear down. As the novel progresses, the characters become a little flat, even through the drama that was happening. The story started to fall into predictable clichés, undermining the dramatic tension that the authors were focused on making. My growing disappointment culminated in the ending, which felt weakly contrived and almost cheap compared to the novel’s compelling beginning.
FROZEN is a frustrating novel to read, for it begins with such promise but ends with in letdown. The characters and plot are engaging and the world is fun to explore in the first half, but as the story goes on, they become stale and uninteresting. The first few pages of the novel drew me in with mystery and suspense, while the last few bore me with clichés and predictable plot twists. As a series, Heart of Dread has potential, and while it was not fully realized in FROZEN, I hope that it becomes so in the books to come.
Reviewed by Brandon L. on October 8, 2013