TOUCH OF FROST
(Mythos Academy #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Kensington Publishing Corporation
Available July 26th
Received from author for review
Gwen Frost is unfortunately stuck at a school where everyone seems to belong but her. She's the lone Gypsy with a gift for psychometry, the ability to touch an object and know its history, among Spartans, Valkyries and other students with enviable strength and skill.
While Gwen has no idea why one of the professors showed up at her door one day asking her to attend Mythos Academy, she's quickly distracted from her outsider status by the brutal murder of one the school's most popular young girls and the theft of one of the thirteen artifacts vital to those who wish to instigate a second Chaos War.
No one else seems to care that Jasmine has died, but Gwen can't seem to let her death go. With the somewhat reluctant help of Spartan bad boy Logan Quinn, Gwen attempts to solve Jasmine's murder and the bowl's theft, and in doing so discovers the truth about her family, her reason for being at Mythos, and her role in the impending war.
Touch of Frost is Ms. Estep's foray into the young adult fiction world, and much as she does with her Elemental Assassin series, she provides us with complex and layered characters against a believable supernatural backdrop. One of the shining strengths of her books, in addition to her vibrant characters, is their episodic quality. A large paranormal problem is outlined, and then within that larger arc a smaller piece of the puzzle is integrated–given to us to solve in it's entirety by the conclusion of the book so we are left with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at having completed the first leg of Gwen's journey while still knowing there's so much more waiting for us. We are never drowned in preparatory details and explanations but rather are provided just enough information to grab our attention and hold it completely, and as we go along new strands of information are added to blend with our previous knowledge effortlessly.
Gwen is a fun and quirky young woman, feeling very much out of place at a school full of people with extraordinary gifts and skills sets, but dealing with the strangeness of her situation with as much humor as she can muster. She does have a tendency to dwell on her sense of not belonging in those moments when the humor fades away, seeming content to stay isolated while ruminating on all the reasons she feels so alone as opposed to taking measures to remedy her situation. That being said however, part of her appeal is that she is clearly a work in progress, complete with understandable doubts, insecurities, and all the little nagging internal voices that have a tendency to point out our flaws when we least need the reminder. As the story moves forward, we do get to see Gwen start to mature and make an attempt to adjust to her new life, and it becomes apparent to us she will continue to do so with each installment until we inevitably reach the end and can say to ourselves "look how far she's come".
Gorgeous and arrogant, Logan Quinn initially seems as though he will be pretty straightforward and stereotypical–the smoldering, womanizing heartthrob who we can appreciate superficially but ultimately won't affect us on a deeper level. Ms. Estep's characters are never predictable however, and just when we think this is going to be a story where the athletic, popular guy falls for the antisocial misfit, the bottom of the character box we've labeled and placed him in drops out, and we are given fleeting glimpses of a depth we can't help but want to more thoroughly explore. She also has the uncanny ability to write male characters who both attract and repel us simultaneously and who are charming one minute and infuriating the next, forcing us to be ever vigilant and wary even while we're still undeniably intrigued by them. We want to let down our guard with Logan, but we also fear the emotional pain he is clearly capable of inflicting the moment we do, and so we sit on the edge of our seats with our feelings in chaos as we try to decipher a young man whose thoughts and actions are beyond our comprehension.
Overall, Touch of Frost is a strong first installment despite Gwen's initial melancholy, and the events for book two are nicely set up without leaving us frustrated over a lack of resolution. The mystery element is well-executed, with clues skillfully placed to keep us suspicious of everyone involved. Ms. Estep is an auto-buy author for me, and I am eagerly anticipating book two so I can laugh with, and root for, Gwen as she begins to find a place among the myths and legends.