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Cold Steel: Spiritwalker #3    by Kate Elliott order for
Cold Steel
by Kate Elliott
Order:  USA  Can
Orbit, 2013 (2013)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I'm a huge fan of Kate Elliott's work, especially her original Jaran series (which she amusingly describes on her website as 'Genghis Khan meets Jane Austen'). She calls her Spiritwalker trilogy 'an Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency fantasy adventure with airships, Phoenician spies, the intelligent descendents of troodons, and a dash of steampunk whose gas lamps can be easily doused by the touch of a powerful cold mage.' Good summary!

But don't jump into this third episode (as I did) without reading the first two - too complicated; you need the backstory! In the first book, Cold Magic, heroine Cat Barahal was forced to marry powerful, vain and arrogant cold mage Andevai Haranwy and was drawn into a 'labyrinth of politics'. Over time, she grew to love Vai and to hate their mutual enemy, fire mage James Drake. Through the series, she and her cousin Bee have discovered that Cat is a spiritwalker and Bee a dragon dreamer. The Cold Mages want to control them and warlord Camjiata needs their help to conquer Europa. Cat's father is the Master of the Wild Hunt that seeks mortal blood every Hallows Night. Her mother was an Amazon, and her half-brother Rory is a shapeshifter.

As this episode opens, Cat's sire (who tells her 'A prince among slaves is still a slave') has taken her husband Vai into the spirit world. Prince Caonabo accuses Cat of being responsible for the death of his mother, Queen Anacaona. Her cousin Bee's defense of Cat ends Bee's marriage. Cat, Bee, Rory and Anacaona's talking head then embark (together and separately) on a series of wild adventures across oceans and in and out of the spirit world. Of course, Cat rescues Vai from his imprisonment there, and he joins in her subsequent adventures. Vai gets to know his brother-in-law; Bee turns into a revolutionary; they are tutored by a dragon; and Vai is trapped once more, in a gilded cage this time.

All culminates in a great battle, with soldiers and mages on both sides, and Vai and Cat with opposing forces. When the war is over, Cat still has one last enemy to defeat - will the cost be too high? You'll just have to read this exciting, action-packed trilogy to find out, but do enjoy the episodes in order.

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