Frozen: Heart of Dread, Book One

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“As fearless as a futuristic Game of Thrones.”— MARGARET STOHL, New York Times bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures trilogy

From Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston, the New York Times bestselling authors of the Blue Bloods and Witches of East End series.

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 ...

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“As fearless as a futuristic Game of Thrones.”— MARGARET STOHL, New York Times bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures trilogy

From Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston, the New York Times bestselling authors of the Blue Bloods and Witches of East End series.

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.
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.
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 there. 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. This is a remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this post-apocalyptic first book in the Heart of Dread series, the husband-and-wife team of de la Cruz and Johnston blur the lines between science fiction and fantasy. In a future in which much of the world is covered in ice—ice that has brought with it strange and powerful creatures—it’s business as usual in New Vegas for those with the funds and wherewithal to gamble. When 16-year-old blackjack dealer Nat Kestal gains possession of a map supposedly leading to the mythical, paradisiacal “Blue,” she looks for a way out of the totalitarian Remaining States of America. She gains passage with unpredictable Ryan “Wes” Wesson and his misfit band of mercenaries, only to develop feelings for him. With government troops on their heels, slavers on the prowl, and potential traitors in their crew, can Nat and Wes trust each other long enough to find the Blue, assuming it exists? Romance, magic, and excitement drive the pace of this genre-defying adventure, though some of the more fantastical elements can clash with the futuristic, dystopian atmosphere. Ages 12–up. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Toni Jourdan
Earth in the future is bleak thanks to the Big Freeze. The skies are gray, oceans are gray and full of trashbergs, and the sun never shines to warm up the frozen tundra. Natasha Kestal works as a blackjack dealer in a city called New Vegas. Nat has heard whispers of a place called “the Blue,” and she has come across a stone that she wears about her neck that is a map to this mythical paradise. Now all she needs is to find passage to this far off land. The only problem is that it is illegal to leave New Vegas, and it is illegal to search for “the Blue.” Nat hires a mercenary crew that is led by a handsome runner named Ryan Wesson. “Wes” knows that there’s something special about Nat, but he is not exactly sure what it is. He is right, because Nat is one of the “marked” individuals with special powers. Her mark is a flame, positioned above her heart, but she has no powers that she knows of, except for the voice in her head. They travel the poisonous seas, where they are brought aboard cruel slave ships, starved, and tortured. Nat and the ragtag crew fight many battles, but inevitably it is Nat and the voice in her head who can choose to save them all. Life is rough in this frozen future and so much of this book leaves the reader feeling hopeless. Another horrible thought about life in “Frozen’s” future is that reading is practically nonexistent except for “Reading Based Entertainment” which is written in textlish. Book one in the “Heart of Dread” series. Reviewer: Toni Jourdan AGERANGE: Ages 13 up.
VOYA - Susan Hampe
In a frozen wasteland surrounded by polluted waters and punctuated by mountains of trash, humanity struggles to survive a world of its own making. Rumor has it that there is a place called the Blue, a land uncorrupted, for which many have searched and failed. When she comes into possession of a stone she thinks might be a map, Natasha "Nat" Kestel hires Ryan "Wes" Wesson and his crew to get her to New Crete, the closest point to the Blue. But Nat is one of the marked, people with special abilities and who bear an accompanying mark, something she must keep hidden from the others. de la Cruz and Johnston kick off a brilliant new series, blurring the lines of science fiction and fantasy to craft a bleak, frozen dystopian world. This swift-moving, action-packed plot is a compelling read that readers will quickly devour, but they will be left hungry for more. The characters are an interesting though rather predictable lot, with a semi-flat supporting cast. Overall, it is very well written, although it does stumble a little at the end. This is an excellent kick-off for the Heart of Dread series and one that will likely appeal to fans of Veronica Rossi's Under the Never Sky. Reviewer: Susan Hampe
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Natasha Kestral is a blackjack dealer in New Vegas. She is also one of the "Marked," a group of oft-feared power wielders. They are sometimes telekinetic, self-healing, or telepathic, but always discernible by their brightly colored eyes. With the United States almost destroyed and the world engulfed in a new ice age, most people have lost all hope. Having escaped from the institution in which she was being held against her will, Nat has reinvented herself with a new identity. But a voice in her head is forcing her to go to a rumored paradise called The Blue. To get there, she hires Ryan Wesson and his band of ragtag underage pirates to book a passage over the frozen ocean. Upon meeting, Wes feels an instant connection with Nat. As the two teens begin to trust each other, Nat begins to understand her true destiny. Can she reach The Blue in time? While some plot elements are a little hard to swallow, such as Wes being a military veteran at only 16 years old, there is a concentrated effort to build a glacially complex dystopian setting that is unrecognizable from the world we know. The romance seems a little forced, but the well-developed supporting characters among the crew help to provide a well-rounded ensemble. The plot flows steadily while providing glimpses into familiar science-fiction concepts that the story uses as its foundation. Fans of The Hunger Games will no doubt enjoy sinking their teeth into this exciting book.—Ryan P. Donovan, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A high-stakes chase through a dystopian future in search of a hidden land called "the Blue." Sixteen-year-old Nat Kestral works as a blackjack dealer and card counter in New Vegas, the frozen wasteland that's all that's left of the former Sin City after extreme climate change and pollution overtook the Earth. She's guarding her own secrets and powers. When she scores a necklace with a mysterious stone from her boss that could be a map that leads to the Blue, she enlists the help of handsome, golden-haired Wes and a team of mercenaries to take her there. Bullets fly alongside high-speed car chases and narrow escapes, and inevitable romantic sparks between Wes and Nat ensue. Add in Wes' wary, Lost-Boys–like crew and a host of zombielike creatures called Thrillers (named for the Michael Jackson song), and de la Cruz and Johnson score a hit. The story sputters at first as readers navigate parallel scenes between Wes and Nat that are often hard to follow as they try to simultaneously digest the dystopian environment and the action taking place. The plot quickly jells once the two come together, and the alternate narrating chapters focus on the same plot and the growing romance. The action soon accelerates, and readers will find themselves completely immersed in the authors' dangerous world. Lots of fun and tons better than the average dystopian romance. (Dystopian romance. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399257544
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 9/17/2013
  • Series: Heart of Dread Series , #1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 193,493
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL770L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Melissa de la Cruz

Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Publishers Weekly internationally best­selling author of many critically acclaimed novels. Her Blue Bloods series has sold over three million copies and the Witches of East End series became an hour-long television drama on the Lifetime network.
Michael Johnston is Melissa’s husband and heretofore “si­lent partner.” He is co-creator of the Blue Bloods and Witches of East End series. Melissa and Michael live with their daughter in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California.

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Read an Excerpt

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
—Robert Frost, “Fire and Ice”

It’s time to begin.
—Imagine Dragons, “It’s Time”


They were coming for her. She could hear their heavy footsteps echoing in the concrete hallway. In a way, the sound was a relief. For days upon days she had been left in the room, alone, in total silence, with little food and water, the weight of solitude becoming ever more oppressive, the silence a heaviness that she could not shake, punishment for refusing to do as she was told, punishment for being what she was.

She had forgotten how many days, how many months, she had been left here, alone with only her thoughts for company.

But not quite alone.

I warned you about waiting, rumbled the voice in her head. The voice that she heard in her dreams, whose words echoed like thunder, thunder and ash, smoke and flame. When it spoke, she saw a beast through the inferno, carrying her aloft on black wings through dark skies as it rained fire upon its enemies. The fire that raged within her. The fire that destroyed and consumed. The fire that would destroy and consume her if she let it.

Her destiny. A destiny of rage and ruin.

Fire and pain.

The voice in her head was the reason her eyes were not brown or gray. Her clear tiger eyes—hazel-green with golden pupils—told the world she carried a mark on her skin, one that she kept hidden, one that was shaped like a flame and hurt like a burn, right above her heart. The reason she was imprisoned, the reason they wanted her to do as she was told.

The girl did not want to be different. She did not want to be marked. She did not want to be what the voice said she was. What the commander and the doctors believed she was. A freak. A monster.

Let me go—she had implored the first time she had been brought to this place—I’m not what you think I am. She had insisted they were wrong about her from the beginning of her captivity.

What is your talent? they had demanded. Show us.

I have none, she had told them. I have no ability. I can do nothing. Let me go. You’re wrong. Let me go.

She never told them about the voice in her head.

But they found ways to use her anyway.

Now they were coming, their heavy footsteps plodding against the stone. They would make her do what they wanted, and she would not be able to refuse. It was always this way. She resisted at first, they punished her for it, and finally she gave in.

Unless . . .

Unless she listened to the voice.

When it spoke to her, it always said the same thing: I have been searching for you, but now it is you who must find me. The time has come for us to be one. The map has been found. Leave this place. Journey to the Blue.

Like others she had heard the legends of a secret doorway in the middle of the ruined Pacific that led to a place where the air was warm and the water was turquoise. But the way was impossible—the dark oceans treacherous, and many had perished attempting to find it.

But perhaps there was hope. Perhaps she would find a way to do what it sought.

Out there.

In New Vegas.

Outside her window, far away, she could see the glittering lights of the city shining through the gray. Before the ice, night skies were supposedly black and infinite, dotted with stars that shone as sharp as diamonds against velvet. Looking up into that dark expanse you could imagine traveling to distant lands, experiencing the vastness of the universe, and understanding your own small part in it. But now the sky was glassy and opaque at night, a reflection of the bright white snow that covered the ground and swirled in the atmo­sphere. Even the brightest of stars appeared only as faint, distant glimmers in the blurry firmament.

There were no more stars. There was only New Vegas, glowing, a beacon in the darkness.

The city lights stopped abruptly at a long arcing line just a few miles out. Beyond the line, beyond the border, everything was black, Garbage Country, a place where light had disappeared—a no-man’s-land of terrors—and past that, the toxic sea. And some­where, hidden in that ocean, if she believed what the voice said, she would find a way to another world.

They were closer and closer.


• *

She could hear their voices outside, arguing.

The guards were opening the door.

She didn’t have much time . . .

Panic rose in her throat.

What would they ask her to do now . . . what did they want . . . the children most likely . . . always the children . . .

They were here.

The window! the voice bellowed. Now!

Glass smashed, broken, sharp icicles falling to the floor. The door burst open, but the girl was already on the ledge, the cold air whipping against her cheeks. She shivered in her thin pajamas, the arctic winds blowing sharp as daggers as she dangled on the knife-edge, two hundred stories in the air.


I will hold you.

Her mark was burning like a hot ember against her skin. It had awakened, as a rush of power, electric as the sparks that lit up the sky, snaked through her limbs, and she was warm, so warm, as if she was bathed in fire. She was burning, burning, the mark above her heart pressing on her like a brand, scorching her with its heat.

Let us be one.

You are mine.

No, never! She shook her head, but they were inside now, the commander and his men, raising their guns, training their sights on her.

“STOP!” The commander stared her down. “REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE!”


She was dead either way. Fire and pain. Rage and ruin.

She turned from the room and toward the city lights, toward New Vegas, frozen city of impossible delights, a world where every­thing and anything could be bought and sold, the pulsing, deca­dent, greedy heart of the new republic. New Vegas: a place where she could hide, a place where she could find passage, out to the water, into the Blue.

The commander was screaming. He aimed and pressed the trigger.

She held her breath. There was only one way to go.

Out and down.

Up and away.

Fly! roared the monster in her head.

The girl jumped from the ledge and into the void.


Am I just in Heaven or Las Vegas?
—Cocteau Twins, “Heaven or Las Vegas”


It was the start of the weekend, amateur night; her table was crowded with conventioneers, rich kids flashing platinum chips, a pair of soldiers on leave—honeymooners nuzzling between drinks, nervous first-timers laying down their bets with trembling fingers. Nat shuffled the cards and dealt the next hand. The name she used had come to her in a fragment from a dream she could not place, and could not remember, but it seemed to fit. She was Nat now. Familiar with numbers and cards, she had easily landed a job as a blackjack dealer at the Loss—what everyone called the Wynn since the Big Freeze. Some days she could pretend that was all she was, just another Vegas dreamer, try­ing to make ends meet, hoping to get lucky on a bet.

She could pretend that she had never run, that she had never stepped out of that window, although “fall” wasn’t the right word; she had glided, flying through the air as if she had wings. Nat had landed hard in a snowbank, disarming the perimeter guards who had surrounded her, stealing a heat vest to keep herself warm. She followed the lights of the Strip and once she arrived in the city it was easy enough to trade in the vest for lenses to hide her eyes, allowing her to find work in the nearest casino.

New Vegas had lived up to her hopes. While the rest of the country chafed under martial law, the western frontier town was the same as it ever was—the place where the rules were often bent, and where the world came to play. Nothing kept the crowds away. Not the constant threat of violence, not the fear of the marked, not even the rumors of dark sorcery at work in the city’s shadows.

Since her freedom, the voice in her head was exultant, and her dreams were growing darker. Almost every day she woke to the smell of smoke and the sound of screams. Some days, the dreams were so vivid she did not know if she was sleeping or awake. Dreams of fire and ruin, the smoldering wreckage, the air thick with smoke, the blood on the walls . . .

The sound of screams . . .

“Hit me.”

Nat blinked. She had seen it so clearly. The explosion, the flashing bright-white light, the black hole in the ceiling, the bodies slumped on the floor.

But all around her, it was business as usual. The casino hummed with noise, from the blaring pop song over the ste­reo, the craps dealers barking numbers as they raked in die, video poker screens beeping, slot machines ringing, players impatient for their cards. The fifteen-year-old bride was the one who had asked for another. “Hit me,” she said again.

“You’ve got sixteen, you should hold,” Nat advised. “Let the house bust, dealer hits on sixteen, which I’m showing.”

“You think?” she asked with a hopeful smile. The child bride and her equally young husband, both soldiers, wouldn’t see anything like the main floor of a luxury casino for a long time. Tomorrow they would ship back out to their distant patrol assignments, controlling the drones that policed the country’s far-flung borders, or the seekers that roamed the forbidden wastelands.

Nat nodded, flipped up the next card and showed the newlyweds . . . an eight, dealer busted, and she paid out their winnings. “Let it ride!” The bride whooped. They would keep their chips in play to see if they could double their holdings.

It was a terrible idea, but Nat couldn’t dissuade them. She dealt the next round. “Good luck,” she said, giving them the usual Vegas blessing before she showed them her cards. She was sighing—Twenty-one, the house always wins, there goes their wedding bonus—when the first bomb exploded.

One moment she was collecting chips, and the next she was thrown against the wall.

Nat blinked. Her head buzzed and her ears rang, but at least she was still in one piece. She knew to take it slow, gin­gerly wiggling fingers and toes to see if everything still worked, the tears in her eyes washing away the soot. Her lenses hurt, they felt stuck, heavy and itchy, but she kept them on just to be safe.

So her dream had been real after all.

“Drau bomb,” she heard people mutter, people who had never seen a drau—let alone a sylph—in their lives. Ice trash. Monsters.

Nat picked herself up, trying to orient herself in the chaos of the broken casino. The explosion had blown a hole in the ceiling and pulverized the big plate-glass windows, sending incandescent shards tumbling down fifty stories to the side­walks below.

Everyone at her blackjack table was dead. Some had died still clutching their cards, while the newlyweds were slumped together on the floor, blood pooling around their bodies. She felt sick to her stomach, remembering their happy faces.

Screams echoed over the fire alarms. But the power was still on, so pop music from overhead speakers lent a jarring, upbeat soundtrack to the casino’s swift fall into chaos, as patrons stumbled about, reeling and dazed, covered in ashes and dust. Looters reached for chips while dealers and pit bosses fended them off with guns and threats. Police in riot gear arrived, moving from room to room, rounding up the rest of the survivors, looking for conspirators rather than helping victims.

Not too far from where she was standing, she heard a dif­ferent sort of screaming—the sound of an animal cornered, of a person begging for his life.

She turned to see who was making that terrible noise. It was one of the roulette dealers. Military police surrounded him, their guns trained on his head. He was kneeling on the floor, cowering. “Please,” he cried, collapsing into heart-wrenching sobs. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, please don’t shoot!” he begged, and when he looked up, Nat could see what was wrong. His eyes. They were blue, a startling, irides­cent hue. His lenses must have slipped off, or he’d taken them off when they burned from the smoke, as she almost did hers. The blue-eyed ones were said to be able to control minds, create illusions. Apparently, this one didn’t have the ability to control minds, or his tears.

He tried to hide his face, tried to cover his eyes with his hands. “Please!”

It was no use.

He died with his blue eyes open, his uniform splattered with blood.


In public.

And no one cared.

“It’s all right, everyone, move on, the danger’s passed now. Move along,” the guards said, ushering the survivors to the side, away from the corpses in the middle of the broken ca­sino, as a sanitation and recovery team began cleaning up the mess, moving the tables back upright.

Nat followed the stream of people herded in a corner, knowing what would come next—ret scans and security checks, standard procedure after a disturbance. “Ladies and gentlemen, you know the drill,” an officer announced, holding up his laser.

“Don’t blink,” security officers warned as they flashed their lights. Patrons lined up quietly—this wasn’t the first bombing they’d survived—and several were impatient to get back to their games. Already the craps dealers were calling out num­bers again. It was just another day in New Vegas, just another bomb.

“I can’t get a read, you’re going to have to come with us, ma’am,” a guard said to an unfortunate soul slumped by the slot machines. The sallow-faced woman was led to a separate line. Those who failed the scans or carried suspect documen­tation would be thrown into lockdowns. They would be left to the mercy of the system, left to rot, forgotten, unless a celeb­rity took a shine to their cause, but lately the mega-rockers were all agitating to restore the ozone. The only magic they believed in was their own charisma.

It was her turn next.

“Evening,” Nat said, as she looked straight into the small red light, willing her voice to remain calm. She told herself she had nothing to fear, nothing to hide. Her eyes were the same as the rest.

The officer was roughly her age—sixteen. He had a row of pimples across his forehead, but his tone was world-weary. Tired as an old man. He kept the beam focused on her eyes until she had no choice but to blink and he had to start over.

“Sorry,” she said, crossing her arms against her chest and struggling to keep her breathing steady. Why was it taking so long? Did he see something she didn’t? She would hunt down the lockhead who’d conjured her rets if he’d proven her false.

The officer finally switched off the light.

“Everything all right?” she asked, as she flipped her long dark hair over one shoulder.

“Perfect.” He leaned closely to read her name tag. “Nata­sha Kestal. Pretty name for a pretty girl.”

“You’re too kind.” She smiled, thankful for the invisible gray lenses that allowed her to pass the scan.

Nat had gotten the job with fake papers and a favor, and as they waved her through to the employee lockers so she could change into a clean uniform and get back to work, she thanked the unseen stars above, because for now, she was safe.


“I can’t take this job.” Wes pushed the slim manila folder across the table without opening it. Sixteen, with soft, sandy-brown hair and warm brown eyes, he was muscular but lean and wearing a tattered down vest over a threadbare sweater and torn jeans. His face was hard, but his eyes were kind—although more often than not he had a smirk on his face.

He had one now. Wes knew all he needed to about the as­signment just from the words pacific recon typed in boldface Courier across the cover. Lately all the work was in the black waters. There was nothing else. He sighed, leaning back on the plush leather chair. He had been looking forward to a real meal, but the chances of that were slim now that he’d turned down the offer. There were white tablecloths and real silver­ware. But it was still inside a gambling hall and every corner blinked with tiny lights as slots clinked and beeped and coins dropped into buckets.

Wes was from New Vegas and found the sound of casino clamor soothing. The Loss was still recovering from that spectacular bombing that had torn the place in half a few weeks before. A grid of gas heaters were strung across the ceiling as a temporary fix; their fiery glow the only defense against the never-ending winter outside. Snow was coming down hard, and Wes watched the dense flakes vaporize, each flake sizzling like oil in a frying pan as it hit the grid. He brushed back his hair as an errant snowflake drifted through the mesh to land on his nose.

He shivered—he never could get used to the cold; even as a boy he’d been teased for being too warm-blooded. He was wearing several layers of shirts underneath his sweater, the ghetto way to keep warm when you couldn’t afford self-heating clothing powered by a fusion battery. “I’m sorry,” he said. “But I can’t.”

Bradley ignored him and motioned the waitress over. “Two steaks. Tuscan style, Wagyu. The biggest you got,” he ordered. “I like my beef massaged,” he told Wes.

Beef was a rarity, unaffordable to the general population. Sure, there was a lot of meat around—whale, walrus, reindeer, if you could stomach it—but only the heat-elite ate beef any­more. Especially since the only cattle left were nurtured in expensive temperature-controlled stables. The cow that died to make his steak probably lived a better life than he did, Wes thought. It had probably been warm.

He locked eyes with his dinner companion. “You need an­other CEO kidnapped? I’m your boy. But I can’t do this.”

As a former Marine sergeant, Wes had headed one of the most sought-after mercenary teams in the city. Correction: one of the formerly most sought-after teams. He’d done well in the casino wars until he got on the bad side of one of the bosses for refusing to torch a rival’s hotel during Mardi Gras. Since then, all the work came from the secret divisions of the military: protection, intimidation, kidnapping and rescue (more often than not Wes found himself on both sides). He’d been hoping for one of those gigs.

“Wesson, be reasonable,” Bradley said, his voice icy. “You know you need this job. Take it. You’re one of the best we’ve ever had, especially after that victory in Texas. Shame you left us so soon. I’ve got a hundred guys champing at the bit to take this gig, but I thought I’d throw you a bone. Heard you haven’t worked in a while.”

Wes smiled, acknowledging the truth of the man’s words. “Except some assignments aren’t worth the trouble,” he said. “Even I need to be able to sleep at night.” He’d learned as much from his stint in the army, especially after what hap­pened in Santonio.

“These marked factions who resist treatment and registra­tion continue to pose a danger, and they need to be dealt with accordingly,” the older man said. “Look what they did to this place.”

Wes grunted. Sure looked like they found someone to do the casino hit he’d turned down, but what did he know. He only knew as much as the rest of them—that after the ice came, dark hair and dark eyes were the norm, and the rare blue- or green- or yellow-eyed babies were born with strange marks on their bodies.

Mages’ marks, the gypsies whispered, fortune-tellers who read palms and tarot in Vegas’s dark alleys. It’s started. Others will come out of the ice and into our world.

This is the end.

The end of the beginning. The beginning of the end.

The marked children could do things—read minds, make things move without touching them, sometimes even predict the future. Enchanters, they were called, warlocks, “lock­heads” and “chanters” in the popular slang.

The others who came out of the ice were smallmen, grown men the size of toddlers who were gifted with rare talents for survival, able to hide in plain sight or forage for food where none could be found; sylphs, a race of beings of luminous beauty and awesome power, it was said their hair was the color of the sun that was no more and their voices were the sound of the birds that no longer flew across the land; and fi­nally the terrifying drau—silver-haired sylphs with white eyes and dark purpose. Drau were said to be able to kill with their minds alone, that their very hearts were made of ice.

The smallmen were rumored to live openly with their taller brethren in New Pangaea, but the sylphs and the drau kept to themselves, hidden in their remote mountain glaciers. Many doubted they truly existed, as very few had ever seen one.

In the past, the military had drafted the marked into its ranks, along with an elusive sylph or a smallman or two, but ever since that program ended in abject failure during the battle for Texas, government policy evolved to its current state of registration, containment, and blame. The marked were deemed dangerous, and people were taught to fear them.

But Wes was a Vegas native, and the city had always been a conglomeration of misfits living peacefully together for more than a hundred years since the world had been buried in sheets of ice. “It’s not that I don’t need the work, I do,” he said. “But not this.”

The stern-faced captain reached for the folder and flipped it open, paging through the documents. “I don’t see what the problem is,” he said, sliding it back across the table. “We’re not asking for much, just someone to lead the hired guns to clean up the rubbish in the Pacific. Someone like you, who knows the lay of the land—or the lay of the water, so to speak.”

The price was good, and Wes had done dangerous work before, sure, running people in and out of the Trash Pile, no questions asked. As Bradley said, he knew his way around the ruined seas, playing coyote to citizens seeking illegal passage all the way to the Xian Empire; or if they were particularly delusional, they’d ask him to find the Blue, the fabled nirvana that the pilgrims sought and no one had ever found, least of all Wes. But lately work had dried up for runners, as fewer and fewer chose to brave the difficulty of a dire ocean crossing, and even Wes was having second thoughts about his calling. He was desperate, and Bradley knew it.

“Come on, you haven’t even opened the folder,” his former captain said. “At least check out the mission.”

Wes sighed, opened the folder, and skimmed through the document. The text was redacted, black bars covered most of the words, but he got the gist of the assignment.

It was just as he’d guessed.

Dirty work.


The waitress swung back with a couple of beers in frosted, oversize mugs. Bradley knocked his back while Wes finished reading the pages. This wasn’t his usual operation, a one-way ticket into the Pile where if anyone got hurt it was him and his boys. He could deal with that. A good run could keep his team out of the food lines for a month.

This was different. He’d done a lot to survive, but he wasn’t a paid killer.

Bradley waited patiently. No smile, no change in expres­sion. His shirt was tucked a little too tight, hair clipped a little too short for a civilian. Even out of uniform, he had military written all over him. But the United States of America was not what it once was—no wonder everyone called it the “Re­maining States of America” instead. The RSA: a handful of surviving states, and aside from its massive military machine that kept gobbling up new terrain, the country had nothing else and was hocked lock, stock, and barrel to its debtors.

The captain smiled as he wiped the froth from his lips. “Cakewalk, right?”

Wes shrugged as he closed the folder. Bradley was a hard man, one who wouldn’t blink twice before giving a kill order. Most of the time Wes followed those orders. But not this time.

In any other world, Wes might have grown up to be some­thing else: a musician maybe, or a sculptor, a carpenter, some­one who worked with his hands. But he lived in this world, in New Vegas; he had a team that counted on him, and he was cold and hungry.

When the waitress came back, she was wheeling a silver cart holding two wide platters, each one bearing a fat steak, charred on top and dripping juice over a bed of mashed po­tatoes. The smell of melted butter and smoke was tantalizing.

It was a far cry from the MRSs he was used to: Meals Ready to Squeeze. It was all he and his boys could afford lately: pizza squeezers, Thanksgiving dinner in a can. Some of it wasn’t even food, it came out of aerosol containers; you sprayed it directly into your mouth and called it dinner. Wes couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a hamburger, much less a steak, that smelled this good.

“So, you taking the job or not? Listen, these are hard times. Don’t sweat it. Everyone needs to eat. You should be thank­ing me for this opportunity. I came to you first.”

Wes shook his head, tried to get the smell of the steak out of his mind. “I told you, try someone else. You’ve got the wrong guy,” he said.

If Bradley thought he could buy him for the price of a meal, he was wrong. Wes styled himself after Paleolithic hunters he’d learned about in school, who kept their eyes trained on the horizon, always scanning, always searching for that elu­sive prize that would mean survival. But the tribesmen would fast for days rather than consume the meat of sacred animals. Wes liked that idea; it allowed him feel better about himself, that he wasn’t a vulture, one of those people who would do anything for a heat lamp. Wes didn’t have much, but he had his integrity.

The army captain scowled. “You really want me to send this back to the kitchen? I bet you haven’t eaten anything but mush for weeks.”

“Throw it in the garbage, what do I care,” Wes said as he tossed the folder back across the table.

Bradley straightened his lapels and shot him a withering look. “Get used to starving then.”


The casino was buzzing as usual when Nat arrived for work that evening. It had never even closed, not for a day, not for an hour; management didn’t care that there was a hole in the roof as long as the slot machines kept ringing. She nodded to Old Joe as she walked in and the wiz­ened card shark smiled in greeting, his eyes disappearing into his cheeks. Joe was an anomaly, a rare bird, a man who had lived past his fiftieth birthday. He was also a legend at the casinos. Supposedly he’d been one of the smartest and most successful card sharks, and one of the most elusive—he’d brought down many a gambling hall, decimating coffers, stay­ing just one step ahead of security. When he made his way to the Strip, the Loss offered him a job on the inside, rather than watch him walk away with their profits.

“You remind me of my niece who died in ’Tonio,” Joe had said when he’d hired her right off the felt, a skinny, starving thing who was on a winning streak at the poker tables. “She was like you—too smart for her own good.” Joe made her the same deal he gave all his fellow card counters. Work for me, help us turn in the other pros, I’ll give you a decent salary and keep you from getting beat up by the casino goons. He didn’t ask any questions about how she came to Vegas or what she was doing before, but he’d made good on his word, and got her set up.

Ask him, the voice ordered. Ask him about the stone. Do what we came here for. You have delayed long enough. The Map has been found, the voice kept telling her. Hurry, it is time.

What map? she had asked, even if she had a feeling she already knew the answer. The pilgrims called it Anaximander’s Map; it was said to provide safe passage through the rocky, perilous waters of Hell Strait to the island doorway that led to the Blue.

“Joe?” she asked. “You got a sec?”

“What’s up?”

“Can we talk privately?”

“Sure,” he said, motioning that she should follow him to a quiet corner, where a group of tourists were robotically feed­ing credits into the video poker stations. The smell of smoke was overpowering, and it reminded her of her dreams.

Joe crossed his meaty arms. “What’s on your mind?”

“What is that?” she asked, pointing to the stone he wore around his wrinkled neck. The one she had noticed the first time they had met, the one that the voice in her head de­manded she ask him about the moment she had set foot in the city, and in this casino. She had put off the voice for as long as she could, fearing what would happen if she did as she was told.

“This?” the old man asked, lifting the stone to the light, where it shone brightly against the dim cocoon of the gam­bling hall.

That is the one! Take it! Take the stone. Kill him if you must. It is ours! The voice was frenetic, excited, she could feel the monster’s need thrumming in her veins.

“No!” she said aloud, shocking herself and startling a nearby gambler who dropped her token.

“What?” Joe asked, still admiring the shining stone.

“Nothing,” she said. “It’s pretty.”

“I won it at a card game a while back,” he said with a dis­missive wave. “It’s supposed to be some kind of map, but it’s nothing.”

Take it! Take it! Take it from him!

“Can I hold it?” she asked, her voice quavering.

“Sure,” Joe said, slowly removing it from his neck. He hesi­tated for a moment before handing it to her. It was warm in her palm.

She studied the small blue stone in her hand. It was the weight and color of a sapphire, a round stone with a circle in the middle of it. She put it up to her eye and jumped back, startled.

“What happened? You see something?” Joe asked excitedly.

“No—no . . . nothing,” Nat lied. For a moment, the casino had disappeared and through the hole in the stone, all she could see was blue water, shimmering and clean. She peered into it again. There it was. Blue water.

That wasn’t all. Upon closer inspection she saw there was more, an image of a charted course, a jagged line between obstacles, a way forward, through the rocky and whirlpool waters of the Hellespont Strait.

The stone contains the map to Arem, the doorway to Vallonis, the voice murmured reverently.

This was why the voice had led her to New Vegas, to the Loss, and to Joe. It had facilitated her escape, it had brought her freedom, and it was relentlessly pushing her forward.

Come to me.

You are mine.

It is time we are one.

“There’s nothing,” she told Joe.

His shoulders slumped. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. It’s just a fake.”

She closed her fist around it, unsure of what would happen next, afraid of what she’d do if Joe asked for it back and hop­ing that he wouldn’t.

She stared down the casino boss. The monster in her head was seething. What are you waiting for! Take it and run! Kill him if he stops you!

“Give it to me,” she whispered, and somehow she knew he would do as told.

Joe flinched as if she’d hurt him. “Keep it,” he said finally, and walked away from her quickly.

Nat leaned against the wall in relief, glad for Joe’s sake that he had given it freely.

Later that evening she was awoken by the sound of a scuffle. Joe lived two rooms down from her, and she heard them—military police? Casino security? Bounty hunters? Whoever had come had kicked open his door and was taking him from his bed. She heard the old man begging, screaming and crying, but no one came to his aid. No neighbors dared to peer down the hallway, no one even asked what the mat­ter was. Tomorrow no one would talk about what happened either, or what they had heard. Joe would simply be gone, and nothing more would be said. She huddled in her thick blankets as she heard them tearing his room apart, throwing open closet doors, upending tables, looking . . . looking . . . for something . . . for the cold blue stone that she now held in her hand?

If they had found Joe, it wouldn’t be long before they found her as well.

Then what? She could not look back, she had nothing to go back to, but if she kept moving forward . . . She shuddered, and her mouth tasted of ashes and cinder.

She held the stone in her hand. The map to Arem, doorway to Vallonis.

From the window, she saw them take Joe away in a strait­jacket, and she knew what awaited her if she stayed. They would send her back to where she came from, back to those solitary rooms, back to those dark assignments.

No. She could not stay. She had to leave New Vegas, and soon.

What are you waiting for?

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    Wow.  I could stop right there... but I won't.  This is a FANTAS

    Wow.  I could stop right there... but I won't.  This is a FANTASTIC read!  I haven't yet read any of de la Cruz's other work, the author of the Blue Bloods series among others.  I am not sure what I was waiting for?!  This is co-authored by her husband, who has, unknown to the world, collaborated on previous works with his wife.

    The world as we know it has ended, covering the Earth with ice and changing society right along with it.  The world building in this book was amazing, almost but not quite unrecognizable from our own.  Most of the book takes place in New Vegas, the post-apocalyptic Las Vegas.  California and New York have been wiped off the map, as has much of the RSA... the Remaining States of America.  Everything has changed, from society to agriculture to the military to everyday life.  Along with all the changes are the emergence of new forms of humanoid life.  And we all know that human beings do not always react well to that which is different.

    This book was thoroughly engrossing, from being drawn into the world and drawn to the characters.  Nat is mysterious, but strong, brave, and intelligent.  Wes is tough, loyal, and smart... the perfect foil for Nat.  Each of the members of Wes' team, although generally supporting characters, had a story of their own and illicited feeling, whether affectionate or not.  It was hard sometimes to remember that this is a YA novel.  For example, Wes is only 16 and already a veteran of the army and a man responsible for his team, some of whom are as young as 13 or 14.  One of his enemies is only 19, but there is a mental image of a man much younger than that.  They are all cast into adult roles far earlier than they would be in our own society, with the new world having a much shorter life span than our own.  It is in those moments that you are reminded of their ages that the stark reality of the world of Frozen is really driven home.

    The world in this book is reflective our own, a world that has been smashed, abused, and changed by the government, the military, religion, humanity, and science to create a new world and society, with ambivalent results.  There are messages in this book.  Messages on the state and values of society, on the capacity for human cruelty in the face of adversity, and messages, too, on the capacity for kindness in the face of adversity.  There was a part that I loved, one that clearly delineated the difference between our society and that of the post-apocalyptic Frozen world:

    "While they ate, Nat told them that back before the floods, fat was a sign of poverty, and the rich flashed their status by going on extreme diets - juice "cleanses" and spa vacations where they paid for the privilege of not eating.  None of them believed her."

    Things to love about Frozen...

       --The characters.  Whether you loved them, hated them, felt sorry for them, or were annoyed by them, they were each fascinating people with their own histories and stories.
       --The world.  There isn't much to love about this world in reality, but it was so well written that you lived there, too, and were a part of the story.

    Things I wanted more of...

       --Shakes.  I loved him, his loyalty, his courage.
       --The Slaine brothers.  They seemed so different from each other and I wanted to know more about them.

    My recommendation:  A fantastic read that you should plan for... you will need a block of time because you won't be able to put it down!

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I have to be honest and say that I was very hesitant in starting

    I have to be honest and say that I was very hesitant in starting Frozen for two reasons. The first is that I have read two previous works by Melissa De La Cruz (Au Pairs and Blue Blood series) and really disliked both. The second reason is that some of my trusted blogger friends ended up disliking this book. I take pride in never getting influenced by other people's opinions and ratings when it comes to books but I already had history with this author. Nevertheless, I picked up Frozen and tried to remove any biases I had. Surprisingly, I ended up liking this novel much more than I thought I would. Granted, Frozen is not without any issues and problems, but it was an enjoyable read. The idea behind Frozen was fantastic. I thought a world that has frozen and a time where pirates and slaverers controlled everything outside of the little compound you are supposed to live in is new and intriguing. Of course I'm not for slavery or piratism, but this seemed like new territory when it comes to post apocalyptic/sci-fi novels. Also, the whole phenomena of pollution taking over the world and cities called Garbage Country and trashbergs (equivalent of icebergs but made up of trash) because of the overflow of garbage seemed different. However I do believe, while the concept was brilliant, the execution and progression of the plot had something lacking. Problems were solved too easily. Whenever they are put in a tight situation, the main protagonist and the people with her would easily get out of it scot free. Also, the plot seemed segmented and choppy at times. Especially the ending when a big revelation happened, I personally didn't see it coming because the authors did not give us proper background information or history on the world and the fantasy part of it (the marked and their abilities, the thrillers and their cause, as well as the sylphs).   Towards the end when they reach their destination, I wanted a bit more emotions put into it. I mean, they've just reached the Blue.. that mythical place no one believed existed but all I got were descriptions of the nature I see everyday outside my room window. I think that is another issue I had with the book and that is the lack of emotions between all the characters. The romance was sweet, if not a tiny bit insta-loveish but I did like the friendship between some of the crew that helped the main protagonist, Nat, get to the Blue. I do know I seem to have had a ton of issues with this book but I have to point out again that I did enjoy it. It is one of those books that even with all its faults, you still end up really enjoying it. Definitely recommend it to fans of Melissa De La Cruz as well as adventure novel fans. 

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2014


    I loved this book. It was not what I was expecting at all. I couldn't put it down. The characters were likable, strong, smart & interesting. Best book I've read in awhile!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 31, 2014

    Frozen was a really, really weird book. It has really (intention

    Frozen was a really, really weird book. It has really (intentionally) odd punctuation, and capitalization, and in the end, I just couldn't really get past that. I loved the idea of the world and I wanted to know a lot more about it, but I couldn't get into the characters.

    I really tried to get past the capitalization and stuff, but I had a REALLY hard time with it. It really annoyed me that I couldn't seem to find a pattern or reason to it, and that kind of preoccupied me for a lot of the book. So while I tried not to let it affect my rating, it did in the end. I found it so distracting that I had a hard time focusing on the story.

    I did enjoy the story (what I could focus on), and the world, as I mentioned before, but didn't care for the characters much, and I'm a person who generally needs to care about characters to enjoy the story, so that was a pretty major problem for me, but I did enjoy what was there enough to want to continue the series in the future. Overall, I enjoyed where the story took me, though I was MAJORLY disappointed about one thing toward the end, something I thought could have been a really interesting twist, but then I was let down... a lot. :(

    Another issue I had was that I kept forgetting the book was intended for a YA audience, not because of the writing or anything like that, but because I kept forgetting that the characters are supposed to be 15-17 years old, for the most part. I... did not buy that, at all. They act like teenagers at times, but most of the time, I didn't feel like the characters were teens at all. Maybe that's part of the point, that the world being the way it is forced them to grow up, but every time that was brought up I was kind of thrown for a loop. Definitely could have done without that, lol.

    I wanted a bit more background on Nat and Wes, and how the world came to be the way it is in the book, but hopefully we'll get more of that in future installments in the series.

    (I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Luv it!!!

    Such a well written book! I liked the fact that even though Wes dies, he is alive, and i defenantly was not expecting for Nat and The Drakon to be connected! It was amazing :) and defenantly a book i would recommend for people who love adventure, romance, and power-ability.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2014


    I haven't read it (or even bought it) but my Spanish teacher is reading this and I think she really enjoys it.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2014

    Great read

    Fast paced and leaves you waiting for the next book in the series

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014


    Thus book was so good I could not put it doen I finshed it in lesse than three hours

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Must Read!!!

    Like most of her books, 'Frozen' was wonderfully unique in its plot line. The characters are fun and their adventures together are page turners. I was glued to the book, I couldn't put it down. Lots of adventure and humor.
    If you are looking for something different this is the book you want!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2014

    Best book ever

    I cant wait till the second book comes out

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2013


    The reviews looked great, but in all honesty, it is not a good book. All the characters are pretty shallow, and all the events are somewhat jumbled and confusing. At some points itcould have beem great and I thoight the author could really work with what was happening, but she turned quickly away to another thing; I was pretty lost. So all in all, the book could have had more dimension and direction and description. All the characterswere pretty much one dimensional characters. I am sorry I ever bought it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2014

    Frozen by Melissa De LA Cruze is a great book. It takes place in

    Frozen by Melissa De LA Cruze is a great book. It takes place in new vegas after it has been in a frozen lockdown for several years. Natasha one of the main characters is working as a black jack dealer at a rowdy casino in New vegas. Nat is part of the marked group. The marked group is often feared because of their special forceful power The government of the united states put all the “marked group”in an institution where they are being kept, but nat being the tough girl she is breaks out and that is why she is in New vegas now. She is always afraid of being Caught and cant stand being on her toes all the time so she makes a decision to go to what is called blue paradise where she doesn’t have to worry about being caught. To get to the blue paradise is one of the hardest things she has ever incountered it is thousands of miles away. So tohelp her get there she hires ryan wes but they call  him wes. He is also traveling with a group of pirates  so nat is sure that she will get there. The blue paradise is a whole ocean away witch would be no problem accept for the ocean is ahalf frozen so half way across it she is forced to abandon her ship and endure the harsh weather. During this time her and wes make a connection that neither one of them wants to admit but in time there connection grows to strong to deny and they finale realize it right whenever they make it to the blue paradise

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2014


    Sorry it took so long look at the next res.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2014


    Elsa dn Colin this is Jenna. Jenna this is Elsa and colin. They wave and Elsa looks at you

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Inexplicably Entertaining I would like to thank Orchard Books a

    Inexplicably Entertaining

    I would like to thank Orchard Books and NetGalley for granting me a copy of this e-book to read in exchange for an honest review. Though I received this e-book for free that in no way impacts my review.

    Goodreads Blurb:
    "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.

    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.

    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.

    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. 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."

    A heady mixture of action, fantasy, and a realistic dystopian future, all combined with the sweet thrill of emotional confusion, this story seems to have something for everyone. Nat is one of those people who is far more than she appears to be on the surface; yet even she doesn't know who, or what, she truly is. In a land of martial control, freezing temperatures, and the complete loss of new technological advances, there are essentially two types of people - those that are prey and those that are predators. Yet somehow in this dystopian world lives a third type of person, known as 'the marked.' These people all have two things that make them stand out from the rest - they have a physical mark of some sort, and they don't have the traditional brown eyes.

    Nat is one of the marked. After escaping a terrible childhood Nat has been listening to her inner voice, a voice that helped her make her escape relatively unscathed. But she's afraid of her inner voice, because it doesn't sound at all like her. So whose voice is she hearing?

    Her desperation to find the mythical land known as 'the Blue,' a land like theirs used to be - where the yellow sun shines, and plants and animals grow everywhere, where grass grows on the ground (all things she's only ever heard of, or read about in the ancient books) - all this has Nat taking the largest risk of her life. She is going to become a jumper, a pilgrim. And for that she needs to hire a runner and pray that she gets an honest one.

    This is basically where Wes, Shakes, and team enter in force. Every member of Wes' team is a unique character, and all well crafted, demonstrating their quirks, as well as their personality flaws and strengths. While Wes and Shakes are the dominant figures amongst the crew of runners, all of the other crew members are three-dimensional. As with the action, the characters show who they are, making me feel as if I was right there with them instead of sitting somewhere reading about them - a true testament to the abilities of both authors.

    In the beginning the relationship between Nat and Wes is rocky at best. Yet they both feel drawn toward each other for an unknown reason. A feeling they both do their best to resist, though for different reasons. Watching their relationship unfold is like finding a flower growing in the middle of a concrete parking lot, beautiful, stubborn, and inexplicable. Pay attention to their relationship, for something happens during the climb to the story's peak that could be very important for the future development of this story overall. It certainly surprised me, and I've been wondering about it ever since.

    As the characters' personalities became more familiar to me, the pacing of the action also increases. The development of the story is well tied together, with characters and arc of the story dependent upon one another. True to form for an action-packed story, the peak is reached at the end, leaving us with a cliffhanger ending. Though violent, nevertheless the ending left me primed and ready for the next book in the series!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 4, 2014

    In the book, Frozen (Heart of Dread#1), the United States has su

    In the book, Frozen (Heart of Dread#1), the United States has suffered a massive environmental catastrophe. Massive floods have transformed the landscape. Trash has turned the ocean toxic and filled it with giant islands of trash. Now, the U.S. is called the Remaining States of America (RSA) and is ruled like an iron curtain country.

    The population has changed as well. Cancer has killed anyone over the age of 50. Most people can't read or operate old technology. In addition, there is a new type of human called the “marked”. The marked have magical abilities and some can be identified by their unique eye color. The military hunts and imprisons the marked to use them as weapons.

    The two main characters, Natasha Kestral and Ryan Wesson, live in New Vegas, which has transformed into the arctic. Sixteen year old Nat is marked and is hiding in Vegas, working as a dealer in a casino. A voice in her head insists she travel to the Blue, a land lush and green and filled with wildlife. To do this, she will need a runner to smuggle her outside of the city and then get her across the polluted ocean.

    Sixteen year old Wes, also lives in Vegas, and makes money any way he can to support his crew, whether as a soldier, con artist, or runner. Wes and his team agree to take Nat to the Blue for the money and so they all embark on a dangerous long journey where they are hunted by soldiers, pirates, and slave traders.

    Of the two main characters, Wes appeals to me the most. He reminds me of Hans Solo from Star Wars, charming but with a pirate’s heart. He has learned to harden his heart to others in need because his people come first. However, you see he has a caring nature. He worries about the welfare of his team, supplying them with food and money. Some of the soldiers view this as a weakness and call him soft.

    The romance between Wes and Nat builds slowly, which is believable given their circumstances. Wes demonstrates how much he cares for Nat by constantly putting himself in danger to protect her making him a swoon-worthy hero. It will be interesting to see what happens between them in the next book.

    Unlike Wes, it was difficult for me to get to know Nat’s character because the story didn't provide you with much information. I would have liked to see more of her personality come through so that I could have connected to her.

    In addition, I would have liked to know what triggered the environmental catastrophe. This was never really explained.

    The detailed world building and fast-paced story sets the stage for the series. This book should appeal to sci-fi and paranormal fans.

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  • Posted September 18, 2014

    When I began ¿Heart of Dread: Frozen¿, I thought I was going t

    When I began “Heart of Dread: Frozen”, I thought I was going to be reading a somewhat typical dystopian novel.  Boy, was I ever wrong.  It is impossible to place it in one, or even two, categories.  Finally, I decided to go with dystopian, apocalyptic, and fantasy.  There is an even amount of all of them.

    This novel is a wild ride right from the start, alternating between third person points of view focusing on two flawed, mysterious, and very different individuals. We have Wes, the mercenary, and Nat, the girl with a secret.  Their backstories are revealed very slowly, and combined with the action, it makes it difficult to put down.

    If I describe any of the plot that is not already included in the synopsis above, I run the risk of spoiling a surprise, and that would take away from the fun. And if nothing else, this is one fun book.  Anything that could possibly be included in it is, and the ending was a cliffhanger that has me upset that I need to wait a few months for the next.

    I normally try to avoid fandom-speak in my reviews, but my thoughts can be summed up by this:  “I didn’t mean to ship it this hard.”

    This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Hatchette Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Posted September 18, 2014

    What kind of ritual did the authors do to get this awful book pu

    What kind of ritual did the authors do to get this awful book published?

    Actual rating: ZERO stars

    I should have listened to Queen Elsa’s Let It Go when I was reading this dreadful book because as I went deeper, the story just got crazier (in the most negative way possible). I should have let it go when I was still at 30% because it was the most terrible book I’ve read after Journey to Rainbow Island. The only redeeming quality that Frozen has is that it was so ridiculous I could not stop myself from laughing every time I turn a page. What ever happened to the saying that two heads are better than one? Apparently, that is not usually the case as clearly demonstrated by this book. Two authors and what? A hogwash story set in a nonsensical and full-of-inconsistencies world.

    Where should I begin with this review? Okay, let me consult my Goodreads reading status updates and my mobile phone because I swear, this book made me so industrious in writing a lot of notes which I normally don’t do whenever I am reading.

    First things first, let me make a brief summary of this book. In Frozen, the world is in ruins because of the Great Wars, Black Floods, and The Big Freeze. Obviously, after the occurrence of the latter, everything got covered in ice. And then, due to some unexplained miracle, magical creatures started appearing from the ice as if they are the goddess Venus (who was born from sea foam) themselves. But despite the said catastrophes, Las Vegas was still able to survive but not without its costs.

    Now, the mentioned magical creatures are actually being hunted by the government because uhm, well, the book forgot to explain it clearly. Anyway, just roll with it. So our heroine, Nat/Natasha, is a magical creature pretending to be a blackjack dealer but all the while plotting to go to the Blue. To the majority, the Blue is a fabled land believed to be pristine and the salvation of those who wanted to experience the world before the catastrophes.

    One of the first questions that popped up in my mind was this: When is Frozen’s story set? In 2020? In 2100? In year 3000? Apparently, the authors forgot to mention that very unimportant detail. So what does a reader should do? Take things at face value? Or make a hypothesis through deduction? I did the latter and so my quest started. I took down notes of possible evidences that will clue me in as to when the story happened. So the quest started. In Frozen, the citizens are still using Hummers, Porsches, and Bentleys as a means of transport. The story explained that the citizens were innovative enough to salvage some of the machineries from the world before and make it work. And yay, they still have drag races and casinos despite all what happened! But the surprising thing is that they really don’t have an idea as to how the world worked before the catastrophes happened and their little knowledge of the world-before was acquired from the videos that the existing citizens managed to save and pass them from generation to generation. So what does this mean? Since Nat and all the characters of this book still know how to drive Hummers, Porsches, Bentleys and gamble, they couldn’t be so far off from the last generation that experienced the world-before. So one can say that Frozen happened during the 2050s to 2200s.

    But then, that couldn’t be right because later into the book, it was revealed that Chernobyl in Ukraine is already thriving with life. What nonsense is this?

    “When she (Nat) was still in school, she’d learned about a town in Ukraine called Chernobyl, where a nuclear reactor had exploded. The place was so radioactive that it wouldn’t be fit for humans for hundreds of years (are you sure?) and it was still off-limits now. The whole area was declared an exclusion zone, an evacuated land where no one was allowed to live. In reality, though, the Chernobyl exclusion zone TEEMED WITH LIFE.” ARC p.116 

    Authors, I don’t mean any disrespect but here’s a fact: The isotopes that were released from that nuclear explosion will remain radioactive for THOUSANDS of years and not just hundreds. To be specific, these isotopes are from uranium and plutonium that have half lives of thousands of years. The director of the Chernobyl power plant, Ihor Gramotkin even said that it will take ~20,000 years for the place to become habitable again.

    If we consider that figure to estimate when the story of Frozen took place, we are looking at year 22, 000 and beyond. Will there still be Hummers, Bentleys, and Porsches, and casinos during that time after such devastating catastrophes? And in between those periods, I am pretty sure that there will be other batches of calamities that will struck the world that will either render humanity to evolve or fully eliminated.

    But you haven’t seen it all yet. I am greatly astounded with the authors’ devotion to this story. Aside from the expensive vehicles, the world of Frozen is also experiencing extreme shortage of resources. The value of salt increased to the point that it’s as important as fuel. One crystal of salt is enough to buy a ship. Really? Should I go now and hoard sacks of salt because apparently, it will save my ass when the apocalypse comes.

    And oh, did you know that water also became an extremely rare resource? Extremely rare like only the filthy rich can afford it. And thus, the majority of the ultra-stupid population were forced to drink this substance called Nutri.

    “Clean water was precious but synthetics were cheap and sanitary, so like most solid citizens, her only choice was to drink Nutri, a supposedly vitamin-and-nutrient-rich, sweet tasting concoction that was spiked with faint traces of mood stabilizers, just the thing to keep the population obedient. The chemicals gave her a headache, and more than anything, she just wanted a taste of pure, clear water. Once a week, she saved up enough for a glass, savoring every drop.” ARC p.46 

    Question, the community has enough resources to create Nutri and load it with vitamins and mood stabilizers, why not allocate such resources to melt, purify and sanitize ice (the world is covered in ice, remember?)? For sure, the process of melting, purifying and sanitizing ice is cheaper compared to creating Nutri and does not take a lot of brain powers, isn’t it? Even a 10 year old can figure such a thing.

    Just when I thought that the book is already done with making a fool out of me, it introduced me to this language called “textlish.” Because of what happened, the people have found no valid reason to learn to read anymore. Formal language was replaced with textlish which can be described as a high form of Jejemon. If you are a Filipino, you already have an idea what textlish is.

    Here’s an example of English words and phrases converted to textlish:

    Love =<3
    LOL= Lulz
    I miss you= iMiszqcKyuH
    You= yuHh
    If you want to be a master of textlish, just keep on practicing by txtng ur fwendz ucng ol dos oful nd phakng shrtctz.

    I could go on and on pointing out all the stupid things about this book but I don’t think I still have the strength to continue with this review. There’s absolutely no redeeming quality about this drivel. The main characters and all the other fools are brimming with contradictions that I can’t help but hope that they all die from the cold. Don’t even ask me about the magical creatures because of thrillers (zombies inspired from Michael Jackson's Thriller). OMG! Are the authors trying to make a hybrid between George Martin’s Whitewalkers and Michael Jackson’s thriller zombies? And that’s when I lose it. The plot is also saturated with various plot devices including the dreaded deus ex machina.

    O stars because not even the laughs can save this book from getting a p

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  • Posted September 15, 2014

    Frozen, written by husband and wife Michael Johnston and Melissa

    Frozen, written by husband and wife Michael Johnston and Melissa De La Cruz, is a dystopian novel that takes place after the Earth is frozen over. Somehow people are still finding ways to not only survive, but thrive. Those who are slave traders possess great power. Natasha Kestal, or "Nat", has found a way to survive by becoming a blackjack dealer in New Vegas, or what used to be Las Vegas. However, Nat is looking for a way out. She harbors a secret that will inevitably be the cause of her demise. There is supposedly a mythical land called "the Blue" where nothing is frozen and everything is like it was before the big freeze. Ryan Wesson, or "Wes" is a runner and leader of a team of untrained mercenaries. He and his gang agree to lead Nat to the Blue for the huge amount of money that she stole from work. Together the group must fight their way across the ocean and battle slave traders, with an unexpected obstacle. Wes and Nat both feel a spark that connects them together. They have to either contain it, or use it to their advantage. This novel is without a doubt worth reading. Two sixteen year olds meet, but they are the opposite of typical. The story has the effect that literature always has when written in third person, with just the right amount of secrecy, betrayal, magic, and romance. I would recommend it to anyone and would definitely read it again.

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  • Posted September 3, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Frozen is based in an incredibly dark dystopian world. The descr

    Frozen is based in an incredibly dark dystopian world. The descriptions of this world makes it just come alive in the storyline. 

    Action intense, with lots of highly unorthodox plot twists and turns, the characters face zombies, pirates, military forces, betrayal and dangers from deep below the dark ocean waters.

    That being said, the story fell flat for me. I could enjoy the idea of the story but didn't feel any character connections and felt some of the plot directions, well they just seems way out there. I did however totally love the world that was created and the entire premises behind this world.

    Frozen is a story of magic, monsters and mayhem and is sure to delight many dystopian fans.

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