Saturday, October 5, 2013

Heaven Or Las Vegas - Nikki's Review of Frozen by Melissa De la Cruz and Michael Johnston

On Goodreads:  Frozen

(Goodreads Blurb)
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.

Frozen (Heart of Dread #1) by Melissa De La Cruz & Michael Johnston
 I feel like I end up saying this all the time, but oh my goodness, I loved this book. Yes, it’s another Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic book. And yes, maybe you are tired of that. Shut up and hear me out! It’s really not like any other book I’ve read. This book is super charged protein for your imagination; it’s got some high fantasy elements and a love story too. In the past, I read a couple of Melissa De La Cruz’s Blue Blood books. They were good, not great; the fact that I don’t remember them all that well says enough. When I saw that she would be taking a crack at a different genre and writing it with her husband (I had to Google him), I was pretty damned excited, but I had my reservations.

Frozen takes place after a catastrophic toxic flood, the US is a trash-strewn disaster, steeped in constant arctic temperatures and near darkness. The US is a fragmented mess, the government sucks and everything is sanctioned and watched. The sun doesn’t shine, plants don’t grow, there is no fresh water and no one eats real food except for the rich. Humankind seems to have lost its innovative edge along with its sunshine also. There is a legendary place called “the blue” that supposedly exists across the ocean; a mythical paradise where all types of people live in peace and sunlight. Naturally, everyone is looking for the blue; the problem is that the fabled way there is through the garbage dump-like ocean that is crawling with slavers and hidden dangers.

 After the flooding some children are born different; called simply the “marked”. They possess strange birth marks and different colored eyes and hair. Being that the après flood norm is dark hair and grayish eyes; they tend to stand out. The marked are rumored to have special powers and are hunted by the government. Natasha Kestal is one of the marked; her green and gold eyes are a dead giveaway. She doesn’t really know what is different about her or how to harness whatever power it is that she’s got. She hears a voice inside her head, she can use compulsion a little bit and when feeling anger or another strong emotion, the voice commands her to do things and she feels like she is burning. That compulsion thing really comes in handy too.
Natasha was abducted by the government as a child. She spends her childhood in prison, being forced to do terrible things and believing that she is a monster. Fast forward ten years and she’s a recent escapee and resident of New Vegas, which is much like current day Las Vegas; a cesspool of gambling, outlaws and looser morals. Natasha is good with odds and numbers; so she gets a job dealing cards in a casino. Natasha is an instantly likeable character; she’s sweet and tough, sad but hopeful. She is the perfect Dystopian heroine.

 I don’t normally talk this much about characters, but I have to discuss Ryan Wesson too. He reminded me so much of Han Solo! His description alone was fairly spot on and I instantly liked him. He is a bad boy with a heart of gold type. The kind of dude we are all looking for, but bummer, they don’t actually exist in the real world (I know, I sound bitter as fuck, it’s because I am). Anyway, his ship is a total junker that actually rocks once you get to know her. Wes doesn’t exactly say she “may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid” but it was so damn close, I couldn’t help but notice it. I am a major Han Solo fangirl, so I totally made the connection on my own. There are definitely enough with Wes that you won’t be sitting there thinking “Hey, I know this guy!” But check this out:
“…He looked smug, standing there at her doorway, with his hair slicked back and his collar turned up, a gun belt strapped low on his hips, his beat-up vest shrugged off his shoulders like some kind of snow cowboy, grinning as if he'd won the fireball lottery…”Pg 57
Totally Han Solo, right?! No, the hair isn’t right, but you get my point.
 Anyway, Wes predictably meets the lovely Natasha and they fall for each other. This love story felt, for me, a lot like Delirium by Lauren Oliver. There is this precious, fragile beauty to it and it feels like it’s sacred. I love that, like the rest of the world falls into place around it. This love story has only just begun, so you know there will be huge obstacles for the lovers in future, but that’s all part of what makes it so great.
 Don’t get all upset that I just told you everything about this book; I didn’t. It’s packed full of awesomeness. Basically, I want to give this book kisses and cook for it and have its babies. I never should have had any reservations at all; it’s just that friggin good. It’s such a fresh, well-paced read and more importantly, it’s a beautiful escape. The as-yet-untitled second book in the Heart of Dread series has easily made it into my top five must have books. I’d tell this book “I love you” but ya know what? It would just say “I know” in return. And I’d love it even more for that.
5 of 5 stars

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