Title: Frozen
Author: Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston
Rating: ★★★
Synopsis: 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.

Sam’s review:

This book was won in a giveaway held by @RazorbillCA. Thank you for allowing me to read this book in advance!

This book had a ton of potential to score points with me. Frozen is a roller coaster ride from star to finish, but it’s a book marred with some moments that destroy its potential in favour of usual, overplayed YA tropes.

One thing I adored about Frozen is the world building. I wouldn’t necessarily call this book a dystopia, but rather it comes across more post-apocalyptic and the aftermath of a frozen wasteland (complete with trashbag icebergs, which admittedly, I liked the sound of). This world feels like it draws from many influences like Fallout: New Vegasor even a hint of Firefly, but it still does enough to be its own world. I loved the descriptions of the frozen wastes being tied into the idea of a “Vegas Heat.” De La Cruz does a great job of justifying a lot of the world building without making it feel gimmicky or hokey.

The characters in this story are very hit and miss. I actually loved a lot of the secondary characters so much more than Nat and Wes. Shakes was adorable and raw, Avo was a nutcase, but the protagonists didn’t really do a lot for me. I think Nat had some shining moments in the story, but she’s a character who is “marked” (lo and behold, different), which gives her all the angst because she’s different. I found she was a better character at the beginning of the novel when she was participating as a dealer or during heists. She had a lot more personality and for the most part is a strong leading lady. In the second half of the novel however, she gets way too fixated on her romance with Wes that some of her more can-do personality traits go out the window in favour of love.

Wes was also hit and miss with me. He had some great dialog, and reminded me a bit of Mal Reynolds from Firefly in that he has a tough outer shell with tons of inner layers to peel back, I actually liked that he and Nat were not madly in love with each other right away, but once the romance was set in play, its like they forgot their roles at times in the story.

I was especially disappointed in the last forty pages. De La Cruz has this amazing moment where she gut punches the reader with emotion and then it like she did “take backies” on the whole event because the romance was so much more important than actually going through with what could have gave Nat some great character development. She had the potential to make this scene so moving and beautiful and just destroyed with by putting the romance first and the post-apocalyptic/fantasy elements second. I have a huge problem with authors who remove the possibilities of having awesome character development, and remove it in favor of YA tropes that just come across more annoying than engaging.

Truthfully, I didn’t buy the romance between Wes and Nat. It just felt too perfectly placed and convenient throughout the story. I found when the characters were separated, the story did a great job of developing them as people, but the moment they were together, it just felt so blase and uninspired. I personally do not like romances that come across too perfectly. It just kills the dramatic tension, and it definitely happens here.

However, I will give De La Cruz some major points in that she does write some very fun, fast-paced action sequences. A lot of the action in this book feels well placed and very engaging. Also, it’s Vegas, you expect a few shoot ’em ups from time to time.

This had the potential to be a 4 star book at least, until I got to the last forty pages wherein I was like “If De La Cruz goes there, that will be awesome” only to muck up the awesome because the romance was too damn important. It’s frustrating to become to invested in the world building and seeing how its going to develop only to have an uninteresting romance be put first. Frozen has tons of potential, some great ideas, but its priorities are something that may need to be reconsidered.

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