Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: Frozen (Heart of Dread #1)

Title: Frozen (Heart of Dread #1)
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Other Author: Michael Johnston
Published: September 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile 
I'm panning this one, friends. Although, I must say, it's been a while since I committed to review a terrible book, and planning out the words to describe this novel was entertaining.  I received a copy of Frozen from NetGalley (it was available for anyone to read, and I'm at the bottom of the totem pole).  Since the book actually came out last year, I figure its publisher must be drumming up some publicity for book two's release this November.  Unfortunately, I only have bad things to say about Frozen. 

I figure I'll organize this review by talking through the blurb, chunk by chunk.

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.

So, Melissa de la Cruz is known for her YA series, Blue Bloods, which follows the teenage ancestors of vampires who came over on the Mayflower.  Michael Johnston, I found out from a google search, is de la Cruz's husband. 

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.

To quote a non-kosher Bo Burnham lyric: "What's domain domain range? A kid with too much in his pants." For some reason, that line kept popping up in my head while reading Frozen.  This book has too much in its pants.  It can't decide if its a dystopian novel (Earth is a frozen wasteland) or an urban fantasy (there are "marked" people who have magic powers).  In more adept hands, maybe this genre mixture could be pulled off, but in the hands of de la Cruz and Johnston, it just seemed like they were trying to imitate too many popular genres at once.  More on this later.

In regards to the concept of a dystopian Las Vegas, I immediately thought, "Awesome!" I figured so much could be done with such a setting.  But, as it turns out, not nearly enough time was spent in New Vegas for an impression to be made, and what details that were provided were lackluster.  A lot of bombs go off.  People brush themselves off and keep gambling. I am unmoved.  There is a deadly, illegal car race.  It was a snooze to read through.  In fact, so little description of New Vegas was provided that it seemed like the characters were just moving around in a vacuum.  

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.

As for the characters — particularly the protagonist, Nat — I was unmoved by them.  I failed utterly in connecting with them, or caring about them — which is to say that I did try.  Why is it that some characters are immediately relatable and affecting, while others just remain two-dimensional as cardboard?  I guess it comes down to good writing and mediocre writing.  In Nat's case, the reader is not given much backstory in the first half of the novel.  She has no family or friends to flesh her out.  Her dialogue, what there is of it, is forgettable.  Her thoughts are not particularly dynamic.  We're told that she's intelligent, pretty, talented, and capable — but we're not shown that.

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.

Now this was the part of the blurb that grabbed me.  A group of mercenaries? Yes!  But, like many other reviewers have noted, these were the lamest bunch of fictional mercenaries I've ever encountered. Farouk, Shakes, Zed, and Daran were whiny, bumbling, incompetent, and worst of all, boring

As for their leader — also our second narrator and romantic interest — Wes, he had the most pep out of all the characters, but was so inconsistently drawn that he never really stood out as a fully-fleshed character.  Countless times, he would think one thing than do the opposite, coming across as a hypocrite, until I finally stopped taking him seriously and started viewing him as a poorly drawn, fictional construction.

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.

The "danger" is a weird mixture of improbable, ridiculous technology and a mish-mash of supernatural entities. There are tiny, seed-size machines that suck up pheromones. They transmit your smell identification to "pop-cans" — bombs inside soda cans that the military spreads around the landscape, in order to blow up criminals and fugitives. Seriously. There are zombie-like things called "Thrillers" — named after the Michael Jackson song — and chanters, sylphs, things called draus... It's absolutely too many, disparate genre elements.  It makes no sense.

As for the "true love"... The romance is cliched, flat, and contemptible.  I was in danger of injuring my eyes, they were rolling so much.  I'm usually not a griper when it comes to romance, but there are standards.

The blurb is done with now, and I still have so many issues to rant over.  I'll restrain myself, however.  Frozen is a waste of time, and only worth looking into if you enjoy a good hate-read or are interested in the pressing and concerning issue of genre-bandwagoning.


  1. I've heard many of the same responses to this book. I too got it off NG, and, being a huge fan of Melissa del la Cruz (her Witches of East send series is magical), I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm doing a buddy read of it in a few days...but I'm a lil scared. It doesn't seem like I'll be enjoying this too much :||
    Great review, though. I know it's always hard for me to review books I didn't especially like!
    -Dee @ Dee's Reads

    1. Thanks so much for commenting! I've been waffling for some time about reading de la Cruz's earlier series, but I'll give Witches of East End a shot. I'll be interested to see what you think of Frozen!