Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Frozen is a YA dystopian novel set in the RSA (Remaining States of America) after the apocalyptic Great Wars, which brought on the Black Floods and then the Big Freeze ice age. The novel starts with the parallel storylines of Natasha Kestal and Ryan Wesson, who live in the sleazy outpost of New Vegas. Nat is a blackjack dealer with strange voices in her head, and Wes is an ex-army grunt who leads a mercenary gang. When Nat decides to defect from the RSA to find a fabled paradise called the Blue, she hires Wes and his ragtag band to smuggle her out of the country and across the Poisoned Ocean.
Readers are carried off on a fast-paced and action-packed getaway chase through a vividly rendered world that is grimly decayed and degraded and yet eerily reminiscent of our own. There is no shortage of outlandish people to populate this wasteland, either. From the outcast Marked people with magical powers to the rotting zombies called Thrillers, Nat and Wes must also contend with warlocks, dwarves, and evil sylphs called Drau who have the ability to kill with their thoughts. There are even dragons toward the end.
The wife and husband team that cooked up this sci-fi fantasy thriller know their readership and their craft well. Frozen is paced for the short attention span and laid out in a sturdy five-act plot structure. Within this framework, they spin a busy tale that leaves no device unturned. Like the fun cuisine crossovers described throughout (pizza-eggroll-burrito anyone?), Frozen delivers a dazzling mash-up of genres. The reader is whisked along from a casino heist into a high school romance, from a commando actioner through a zombie horror show, then into a pirate swashbuckler cum buddy road trip. Before the story has a chance to become too predictable, the narrative leaps from one genre to the next.
Beyond all the bells and whistles, the part that rings truest in Frozen is the inner dialogue of the two main characters. Their mulling over questions of identity, attraction, trust, and ethics are issues that many other sixteen-year-olds wrestle with. Readers will also relate to their challenges to authority and questions about the broken status quo.
For those looking for a well-crafted dystopian zombie pirate fantasy romance adventure, this is your ticket. Get Book One in the Heart of Dread series by entering our Frozen Giveaway below!
-- Chris W.