Jennifer Estep is one of those “go-to” authors for me. I love her Elemental Assassin, Mythos Academy, and Bigtime series. So, obviously, when I heard about her new young adult urban fantasy series, I was totally on board. Cold Burn of Magic is the first book in the Black Blade series, and it rocked. I find that each Jennifer Estep book I read is a slow and steady build. Before I know it, I’m in the thick of the action and can’t put the book down. Cold Burn of Magic is no exception. Lila is a young, homeless thief making her own way in the world of Cloudburst Falls. A fortuitous intervention in an attempted kidnapping places Lila right in the center of Family (aka mob) business with no easy way out. Reminding me of a young Gin Blanco (from Estep’s Elemental Assassin series), Lila is a survivor. Ill-advised young love, a dispassionate world-view from the heroine, and a new world of Families, magic, and survival set the stage for yet another hit series.
It’s not as great as you’d think, living in a tourist town that’s known as “the most magical place in America.” Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power.
I try to keep out of it. I’ve got my mom’s bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick.
But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend’s pawn shop, and I have to make a call–get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn’t. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I’m stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I’m going to end up just like her. . .
Lila is jaded. Her life was turned upside-down when she witnessed her mother’s murder. From there on out, she faced trials that no kid should have to deal with and made her own way. There’s only been one constant in her life since her mother’s death and that is Mo, a larger than life character. He looks out for Lila while profiting from her exceptional thieving skills. The weird relationship works until Lila intervenes in an attempted kidnapping. Little does she know that she’ll be forced into making a deal with a Family – to become a bodyguard – after her display of incredible fighting skills. It doesn’t hurt that her new charge, Devon, is not only handsome but an all-around nice guy. Devon’s mother is the head of one of the local Families that offer mortals protection from monsters for a tithe. With all the in-fighting, Devon has become a target, and it’s now Lila’s job to keep him safe. The tension between Lila and Devon is painful and beautiful at the same time. Their backgrounds are so different, yet they both are weighted down by the past.
Cloudburst Falls is an epi-center of magical beings. The town capitalized on this and caters to mortal tourists. What mortals, and even some of those with Talents, don’t understand is that monsters are real, too. Lila’s mother taught her old traditions on how to respect the monsters on top of teaching her to fight, thieve, and hide her rare Talents. The political system of the town is run by the local Families – each Family is assigned a territory to police. The Families reminded me of the Elemental Assassin series. I’m curious to know more about the magical origins of Cloudburst Falls and the mysterious mountain on which the Family houses sit. I’m also hopeful that the younger generation can help bridge the gap between the families. There are interactions between many of the Family kids that lead me to believe that they are the key to fixing the present-day acrimony.
Jennifer Estep has done it again. Cold Burn of Magic begins to weave the heart-breaking and heart-warming stories of Lila, Devon, and their friends. The good guys aren’t all good, and the bad guys aren’t necessarily all bad. Each character is flawed. I reached the end of the book before I was ready to stop reading. Thankfully, Dark Heart of Magic will be out later this year!