Frozen: Heart of Dread #1



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.


I can see why people like this book, really. The frozen post-apocalyptic setting and action centered on the sea really are fairly unique for this genre. And in this regard it’s a fairly run…if you absolutely avoid thinking about this book as you read it. Because once you do? It’s over.

The biggest problem this novel has is that the world isn’t even half-baked. It feels like the authors didn’t really spend the time to develop this world, but more just jotted down some things on paper and ran with it in its most basic form and there a lot of things I can point to to suggest this.

1. The book seems uncertain of when its set. Contemporary references abound (like Nat makes a joke about Wes’ last name (Wesson, and it’s the name of a cooking oil) or how the zomies are called thrillers; yet this is a world where literacy is “at its lowest point” (people use something called TXTlish instead), there are no scientists and the world has forgotten how to repair machines of old. The references suggest this should be fairly close to modern day, but the things I point out suggest that we’ve probably had several generations pass since the whatever cataclysm befell this place.

2. The authors continually contradict themselves. The author mentions that petroleum is pretty much something you can only get if you have a military hook-up, yet these people use a hummer to escape – and manage to have enough gas to drive from Las Vegas to the coast. Los Angeles was destroyed, but they visit Korea town (which is in Los Angeles). People have forgotten how to repair things, yet Wes and other smugglers have boats that have been modified and upgraded. Wouldn’t that go hand in hand with repairs? And if there are no scientists (and presumably no engineers) how do they have tech (like the enclosed cities) that doesn’t exist today? And so on.

3. We know there were “wars” and a “great flood” and that there is some kind of authoritarian regime in place. That’s it. We lack any and all details. The only thing we know about the regime of the world they live in is that they a) regulate sex b) apparently don’t care that kids under 16 are in the army and gambling c) are violent.

Worst still, and I hate saying this, but even one of the draws of the book – the magical nature of the protagonist, hinted at from page one – feels like a gimmick and a plot device more than a full fleshed out feature of the world. I say this because…well…it is. The gist is that Nat has powers, but apparently has no control over them. Doesn’t know how to activate them, doesn’t know how to use them, doesn’t know what they are and so forth. So when do they come to play? When the plot needs it. The first part of the book, she needs credits to hire someone to take her to the Blue, boom. Powers activate. She’s in life or death peril at the hands of one of Wes’ crew members? Powers activate. The bad guys look like they’re going to win…yeah. You see what I’m starting to get at? Uncontrolled powers can be a viable plot device (look at Harry Potter!) but the key is they really do have to feel uncontrolled, not that they just show up when it’s needed.

Aside from all that, you also know that she’s going to fall in love with Wes and that they’re keeping secrets from each other and blah, blah, blah. If you’ve read any amount of young adult fantasy, it’s going to feel old hat to you.

On a technical side, there is some questionable editing going on in this book. The worst offender in this book was a line, and I quote “She began to associate the sweet smell of jasmine with the putrid stink of decripitude.” Decripitude may be a real noun, but it absolutely not the right noun for this situation (she was describing the odor coming from a ‘trashberg’) and honestly feels like thesaurus abuse.

Finally, the attempts at social commentary are quite frankly, laughable. The author hits you over the head with the environmental themes, and the TXTlish is so ridiculous you can’t even take it seriously. This only works if your own work is smart, and this really isn’t.

I’ve seen one or two posts on Goodreads suggest that this was really less a collaboration between Melissa de la Cruz and her husband Michael Johnston and more his book with her name placed on the cover to boost name recognition and sales. I really do hope that that is the case, because as a first introduction to this author, it’s horrible and I can’t see how her Witches of East End made it to television if this is indicative of her writing.

Verdict: Skip it.

Availability: Available Now