Touch of Frost, by Jennifer Estep

Touch of FrostSince I started my new job, my co-worker and I have been playing the Getting to Know You Through Books Game — you know the one. “You love Bartimaeus? You must be awesome!” “Oh, you read those books? Hmmm.”

We’ve attempted to find more common ground books, but it’s not going well. I thought she’d approve of its whimsy, but my co-worker didn’t get into The Eyre Affair, which means she is clearly beyond hope even with her love for Barty. It’s about a literary detective! There should not have been a problem! Sigh.

She recommended to me this series, starting with Touch of Frost, that she devoured via ILL (read: borrowing books from not our library) at our library but that I could easily get from the library around the corner from my apartment, and it sounded pretty good. YA, a gypsy girl who could touch things and know their history, mythology, monsters… sold!

But… eh. Like certain YA novels I have read recently, this is probably a book I would have devoured as a teenager (see: my obsession with the Sweep series), but after reading it I was just like, “I’ve read better.”

It’s a book that I thought suffered from trying to be too much like other YA novels, but may suffer from trying to be too much like Clash of the Titans, which I have not seen but which the author credits as her inspiration in the acknowledgements. Maybe if I had seen the movie, I would like this book better? That is a mystery unlikely to be solved.

The plot: Gwen Frost, a capital-G Gypsy who can touch objects and feel/see/experience things related to the objects and their owners, is forced to attend a private school for the descendants of apparently not-mythical warrior-types, like Amazons and Valkyries and Spartans and whatnot. She is attacked in the library and awakes to find another student dead, and feels bad enough when no one else cares terribly much (because warriors and also because the dead student was a jerk) to investigate. Things go horribly and magically wrong and Gwen ultimately sets them right and discovers why she’s been sent to this weird-pants school.

Which seems okay, but there’s a lot going on in this book. It’s a boarding school book and a book about mythologically descended teenagers and a book about a girl who doesn’t know her own history and a book about an intrepid girl detective (Veronica Mars is name-dropped, so plus ten points) and a book about a girl who likes a guy but can’t quite get with him and it is just a lot of books all at once! And none of the books are really well developed, so I couldn’t hang on to one and go with it because I just found myself lost. I get that you didn’t pay attention in “myth-history” class, Gwen, but that is no reason to know absolutely nothing about the school you attend, and even less reason not to believe in magic when you HAVE IT. Double sigh.

The ending, though… the ending is the best part of the book for me. Gwen finally finds out what the heck is going on and she also (spoilers?) gets some extra power to play with and makes some enemies, but then of course I’m meant to read the next book to find out what’s going to happen next and after this one I am just not motivated. I guess I’ll put that on the “maybe someday eventually” pile with rather a lot of other sequels.

Recommendation: For those who like mythology and adventures and don’t mind a simple, fast-paced plot.

Rating: 5/10

an RIP read

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