Touch of Frost
by Jennifer Estep
YA – Fantasy
Wow–I’ve read every book Jennifer Estep has ever published. Well, I’m a little behind on the Elemental Assassin series, but I’m still reading them–I tend not to read books in series back t0 back. I admire how prolific she is. Things can only get better as her career progresses.
As evidenced by Touch of Frost. This is my favorite novel by her. Gone is the campiness from the Bigtime books. Gone is the grittiness from the Elemental Assassin. (Well, mostly). What isn’t gone is the voice, which has remained distinctive throughout all her novels.
Touch of Frost is about Gwen Frost, a girl of Gypsy lineage who is a new student at the Mythos Academy, a school for descendents of ancient world heroes like Vikings, Spartans, Sumerians, Samuari, Amazons–you name it. As a Gypsy, she doesn’t really fit in, or at least she doesn’t think she does.
It opens with this scene where we get to learn just what Gwen’s special gift is. She uses her gift in a novel way, charging rather steep fees to locate lost things. It leads her to popular mean girl Daphne Cruz, an unexpected friendship, and a supernatural murder mystery.
I’m a sucker for boarding school novels. Always have been. However, it does always seems rather heartless of the parents to shlep their kids off to boarding school, and you can’t imagine that they have good relationships with their parents. (Remember in The Sound of Music when the Baroness said, “Darling, haven’t you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school?” Deliciously evil!) The cool thing about this novel is the school just happens to be located in Gwen’s home town. So, most afternoons, she sneaks off campus to visit her grandmother, her only living relative. What a great way to get around the limitations of the boarding school trope!
If I had encountered this novel when I was a teenager, I would have fallen in love with it. As an adult, I was enthralled enough to read this rather thick novel in a matter of days. The worldbuilding is fantastic. The character building is superb. Daphne, for instance, turns out to have a hidden vice–she is a closet computer geek. The leading guy–a Spartan bad boy named Logan Quinn–is rumored to sign the mattress of every girl he sleeps with. However, by the end of the book, we still aren’t sure if that rumor is true. I’m guessing (and hoping!) not.
As you might have guessed, this is a novel for older teens. The age range of the school is from sixteen to twenty-one, and it seems more like a college campus than a high school–with minimal supervision and lots of hanky-panky going on, strictly off the page. However, for the purposes of the story, the older students are hardly visible.
And as usual, Ms. Estep includes Easter Eggs of her earlier stories–both Bigtime and Elemental Assassin. Keep a lookout for them!
Obviously, I enjoyed this novel a great deal. I look forward to seeing where Ms. Estep takes this story in the next book in the series, Kiss of Frost.