Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Frozen

Frozen (Heart of Dread - Book 1) by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston

Publication Date: 09/17/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Putnam Juvenile
Genre: YA (Young Adult) Dystopian
Pages: 336 (HB)
ISBN-10: 0399257543
ISBN-13: 978-0399257544

(Received for an honest review from Putnam Juvenile)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Melissa De La Cruz on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from Frozen, courtesy of 


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 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.


Melissa De La Cruz has seen great success in her writing career, with her Blue Bloods series and her Witches of East End series that will be premiering as a ten-part mini series October 6th from Lifetime. Her husband Michael Johnston has collaborated and been a silent partner since De La Cruz began writing fantasy and is her co-author for their new book, Frozen, the first book in the Heart of Dread series. This is an amazing post-apocalyptic book that will draw in readers young and old. A frozen world, pirates, slavers, a mystical land and magic... need I say more. This is a young adult novel with a punch. It's fast paced and very adventurous. You'll need to hang on tight for this one...

As many of you know, I don't review very many young adult novels. However, I do read quite a few for my own pleasure. If I decide to review a YA novel I generally must have a very good idea that it will be something that will appeal to YA and Adult readers. That is certainly the case with Frozen. There were several aspects of this book that had significance that made them engaging to a more than one age group. I thought you would be interested in this one the basis of the story, regardless of the age of the protagonists.

Frozen takes place in a frozen post-apocalyptic world. De La Cruz and Johnston did a fantastic job with the world building for this one. It was one of the most intriguing parts of the book. You basically get the idea of a second ice age, where everything is basically completely frozen. Food is of course very scarce. The world is filled with opportunistic pirates. The oceans are full pollution. Readers will get the idea that this is a dismal place where things are only getting worse instead of better. That these inhabitants are barely hanging on. Yet there is some glimmer of hope. 

Part of what makes the world building stand out is that as horrible as the circumstances are, there is still hope. In this book, in comes in the form of a mystical land that is still green, that still has blue skies and offers the kind of life the people of Remaining States of America dream about. The Blue can only be reached by treacherous journey across the Ocean, to a mystical door. But those seeking it must face deadly pirates and many obstacles along the way. I loved how the authors were able to make the reader grab onto that little piece of hope, the possibility of better things.

The heroine, Natasha Kestal, isn't your average teenager. She's a black jack dealer in New Vegas. But she's hiding a very dramatic secret. She has disguised herself so that the government is unable to tell that is she is "marked". The remaining citizens of the RSA all have brown hair and grey eyes. If you have colored eyes, you are a threat. You could have magic powers that the government could either use for it's own nefarious purposes or you could be a someone they are afraid of. Nat is a very head strong character. She has drive and determination. She does not want to be used. She escaped from the government once, but she will only be safe in the "Blue". I loved her chutzpah. She was gutsy and full of sass. She is a survivalist. She knows what it will take and does it. I loved her and thought the authors made her very believable and realistic.

Ryan Wesson is an ex-army man turned runner. Runners are crews that take people where they want to go under no matter what circumstances. It's not the most glamorous job and it has taken Ryan down some treacherous paths  but survival of the fittest isn't always accomplished by honorable means. Wes was just an interesting character. He was an honorable man in a less than savory situation. He is fierce and strong and extremely loyal. But you can't be loyal if you're dead of starvation. The authors paint him as a man who does what he has to, to survive. But he isn't ruthless or deceiving. I liked him a lot and thought he was a great hero.

Natasha has the map and Wesson has the crew. Sounds like an easy trek... right? Not so much. The pace of this book is fast, very fast. One dramatic scene after another confronts these two characters are they journey. But there was still time for some romance. The sexual tension is almost palpable in some scenes. You just want to grab them as say... "Kiss Already!". But there are also some very tender and sweet moments. They know a relationship between them is completely unrealistic, but their hearts say otherwise. It was a great addition to the book, but not the focal point, which was nice. 

There are some great secondary characters that will probably come more to the forefront in successive books in the series, but they were all very well written. They weren't thrown in for effect, they each had a back story and contributed to the story in a meaningful way. There were certain situations in the book that needed these characters to make them more realistic. Overall I thought all of the characters were exceptional and that the authors did a fantastic job with them.

I really enjoyed this one and I can't wait to see what happens next. This is a series that will definitely appeal to young and old. I liked the fact that the world building was so inclusive. I kept wondering what kinds of abilities were going to come into play next. It has a magical quality about it. There was just something that drew me in as a reader and I was enthralled with it. Definitely one you want to give some time too.

Frozen is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Publisher's Weekly internationally best­selling author of many critically acclaimed novels. Her Blue Bloods series has sold over three million copies and the 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. Melissa and Michael live with their daughter in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California.

Giveaway Details:

Hop on over to Owls Always Be Reading for your chance to win a signed copy of Frozen by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston. Giveaway deadline: 09/27/2013 (Part of the Welcoming the Fall Blog Hop)