Kai and Ginny grew up together--best friends since they could toddle around their building's rooftop rose garden. Now they're seventeen, and their relationship has developed into something sweeter, complete with stolen kisses and plans to someday run away together. But one night, Kai disappears with a mysterious stranger named Mora--a beautiful girl with a dark past and a heart of ice. Refusing to be cast aside, Ginny goes after them and is thrust into a world she never imagined, one filled with monsters and thieves and the idea that love is not enough. If Ginny and Kai survive the journey, will she still be the girl he loved--and moreover, will she still be the girl who loved him? Jackson Pearce, author of the acclaimed Sisters Red and Fathomless, has returned with a unique vision of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," one about power and redemption, failure and hope, and the true meaning of strength.
Jackson Pearce graduated from the University of Georgia, where she received a bachelor's degree in English, with a minor in philosophy. She's always been a writer, but she's had other jobs along the way, such as obituaries writer, biker-bar waitress, and receptionist. She once auditioned for the circus but didn't make it. Jackson is the author of Fathomless, Purity, Sweetly, Sisters Red, and As You Wish. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with a spacey dog and a slightly cross-eyed cat. Her website is www.jacksonpearce.com.
The best thing about going to public school is the testing.
It's also the worst thing, sometimes, but testing means that every week or so, we have a strange schedule. More often than not, it's last period that gets affected—it gets extended, making it twice as long, three times as long, once four times as long as normal. I have Intro to Theater last period, which basically means I paint sets for the Advanced Theater class's productions. That, and I watch the teacher struggle to keep an eye on the plethora of "bad" kids who got signed up for the class because they hate school too much to choose their own electives.
Which, incidentally, is the second-best thing about public school: If you're not a genius or a future crackhead, teachers pretty much don't notice you. That's why it's so easy for me to skip the end of the school day every round of standardized testing. I'm not really sure how Kai manages it, since he is a genius, but he figures it out. We don't even have to plan it anymore—if sixth period is extended, we duck out right after the fifth- period bell rings. Today is one such day. I slink around the back of the school, where he's already waiting for me, anxious to hurry off into the early afternoon like the city is ours.
"What takes you so long?" Kai mutters, leaning against a trailer classroom's wall. The annoyance in his voice is betrayed by the way his eyes shine at me.
"I had to go to my locker," I answer. "Otherwise I have to walk all the way home with my chem book."
"Excuses, Ginny, excuses," he says, knocking the backs of my legs with his violin case, grinning as he does so. That's where Kai's supposed to be in last period—orchestra—but he and the orchestra teacher are more friends than student and teacher, largely due to the fact that the teacher could probably learn more from Kai than vice versa.
It's cold, especially for October. Usually Georgia is in between summer and fall this time of year. The chill makes my nose run and my eyes water, but it also makes me feel more alive than the lazy summer heat from last month. Kai and I trudge across a bridge that's been painted with our school colors and leads from the school's property to a public park. The park is largely empty, save a few overweight cops on Segways and some sketchy-looking guys hanging out by the entrance. They're the reason that Kai's expensive violin is in a crappy-looking case: to keep anyone from knowing just how much it's worth. Even I'm not supposed to know, really, but of course he told me.
We ignore the sidewalks and cut straight through the park, heading up a few blocks toward our building. It's one of the few brick structures in a cityscape of steel, neon, and concrete. I turn to say something to Kai, but he suddenly grabs my hand and tugs me around a corner. He puts his arms on either side of me, palms against the concrete I'm pressed up against, as he peers past the building's granite edge. I raise my eyebrows at him, fighting the blush that's creeping onto my cheeks over how close we are.
"Is there a problem?" I ask.
Kai turns back to me and smiles. "Sorry," he says. "Grandma was at the window." He's whispering, as if she might be able to hear us from half a block away.
"I'd be willing to place a bet that if she catches us, it'll somehow be my fault," I say, and Kai laughs, his chest rising and falling against mine as he does so.
"It's always your fault with Grandma," he agrees. As far as Grandma Dalia is concerned, I'm the ultimate distraction in her Kai-is-a-prodigy plan. Kai says she's always been like this—she keeps her things close, and Kai is her most valuable thing. Our apartment building itself is probably a close second—she persuaded her husband to buy it ages ago, then got it in the divorce. It can't be torn down, since it houses Atlanta's oldest (if broken) elevator, but I don't think she'd let a wrecking ball touch it anyhow. She loves it—though I can't, for the life of me, figure out why. If I had the money Grandma Dalia has, I'd live somewhere—anywhere—else.
Kai hesitates, then drops his arms so I'm freed—though he doesn't take a step back. I keep my back firmly planted against the stone wall, unwilling to disrupt the feeling rippling between us, the pull to be closer still. We watch each other, waiting for it....
The first time I kissed Kai was when we were in the vacant lot by our building. He was holding an acceptance letter to a music intensive in New York, and I was holding nothing but his hand, and then his arms, and then his cheek as we pulled in to each other and kissed for what was only moments but felt like hours. We were high on the idea of living in New York together, of the tiny coffee shops we would visit and the museums we would sneak into. We dreamed of late-night stops at street-food vendors and a handful of artistic, clever friends, the philosophical sort we'd never find in our school. It was his acceptance letter, of course, but it was our dream, our shared fantasy, and it boiled over in our minds until the only thing left to do was to kiss, to kiss as if we'd done it a million times before.
Now I wait, not letting my eyes waver from Kai's, and watch the rhythm of his breath. His skin is olive, his hair dark, and it's falling across his forehead the way it always does. I reach up to brush it aside, but Kai leans in before I can do so, letting his breath dance across my skin for a moment. I let him pull me up onto my tiptoes and press in until our lips touch. His hand is on my back, my fingers drifting down the front of his chest, and in my head a thousand fires spring up all at once.
It's several quickened heartbeats before we release each other; Kai's hand immediately trails along my forearm before he laces his fingers with mine. I lean close to him; he grins at me, looks around the corner....
"Coast is clear," he says, and we come out of hiding. For a moment, I wonder if we shouldn't hold hands, just in case his grandmother sees us—cutting class plus holding my hand? Grandma Dalia would be furious. Kai seems less concerned, though, which quietly pleases me—his desire to touch me is stronger than his loyalty to Grandma Dalia, which I know is no small thing itself. Kai drums his fingertips on my knuckles and moves so that our lower arms are curved around each other as we get closer to our building.
It was a pretty place at one time—I've seen photos of it when it was brand-new, back when Kai's grandmother lived here as a little girl and this was still a decent neighborhood. The stonework above the door is still kind of pretty, actually—marble carved into a lion's face with a cloth banner around it. But the lion aside, 333 Andern is mostly a pile of bricks with an ever-changing sea of graffiti on the outside walls.
Kai hands me his key chain and I select a small silver key, then use it to open the door leading into the basement. We creep past the washing machines, all of which have OUT OF ORDER signs on them, and around bottles of cleaner so old that the logos look all wrong. Up the back stairs, one flight, two flights, three—eight altogether, each with its own litter and grime and collection of rattraps, until we reach the rooftop access door. I select another key from Kai's key chain, a key he isn't supposed to have, and insert it in the lock. Slowly, carefully, I open the door—it usually squeaks, but over the years I've perfected opening it silently. I slip through, Kai close behind me, then turn back to shut it.
I exhale when I turn around. This is the only thing about the building that's not only still pretty, but beautiful. Kai and I found it when we were little, prompting his grandmother to declare the rooftop strictly off-limits and install a new lock. It was only a matter of time before he stole the key and I had it copied before she missed it. His grandmother would kill us—well, me, anyway—if she found us here. But how could we stay away? I think, gazing across the rooftop.
Roses, roses everywhere. What was once a large rooftop garden is now a mess of rosebushes, wild and resistant to the constant breeze. The roses have devoured an old trellis, long fallen and decaying, and were on their way to eating an iron bench before Kai and I cut the thorns away and rescued it. They're still in bloom—they're almost always in bloom, save around Christmas. Bright reds and fuchsias and shades in between, blooms so big that when Kai moves down the path we forged through the briars they almost hide him completely. I follow him to the bench, then pull out my math book and sit on it so I don't get rust all over my clothes. We're silent for a few moments, the comfortable sort of quiet that exists only with someone you've known forever.
"Two hundred seventy-three days until we're in New York," Kai finally says, sighing as he gazes across the rooftop. Looking backward, all you can see are roses, but forward, over the building's edge, past the courtyard and the bars and the parks, is the Atlanta skyline. It looks massive yet cage-like. The buildings aren't places to go but enormous walls, keeping us in.
"I'll have to get a job," I say. "I guess I could.... waitress or something."
"You can do a lot more than waitress," Kai says a little tensely, and I feel the ghosts of old arguments rising between us. It's not that I want to be a waitress or cashier or parking lot attendant. It's that when your best friend is a prodigy, it feels a little dumb, auditioning for choir or joining the science team or the newspaper—you wrote an article on the student council election? Great; Kai went to San Francisco to play with an international youth symphony. The symphony flew him first-class.
It's not Kai's fault. I know it and he knows it, but I think he's stuck at an intersection of responsibility and pity for me. He's always trying to make up for it and feels the need to push me into doing something, anything, when the truth is all I want is for him to pull me closer.
I lean into him as a particularly cold breeze whips across the rooftop. "Anyway. I can be a waitress even though I'm under twenty-one, right? I was thinking about this. Even if we pull off me sleeping in your dorm room—"
"You're not sleeping in my dorm room; you're just an accomplished vocalist helping me practice in the evenings," he reminds me, repeating the lie we constructed together. He's better at lying than I am, but I'm the one who researched vocal classes on the Internet, who learned a bunch of music terms, who practiced the confident, tall way that singers sit in chairs. Kai can invent the lie, but I've always been better at the details, I suspect because while he's always been busy doing, I've been busy watching.
"Yeah, yeah," I answer. "But even if we pull that story off, I don't want to be broke in New York, living off your dorm food. So I need a job, but I bet they'll cross-reference or something and figure out I ran away."
"You won't be a runaway, though, since you'll be eighteen. And I mean ... I don't think your parents will ..." Kai drifts off. The end of the sentence, I know, is "be looking for you." Dad lives a few hours away, and Mom works two jobs—maybe three now, I'm not sure. It hurt when I was younger, but now I can't help but think of their indifference as a good thing—it'll be easier for me to break ties. To leave with Kai and ...
I pause, exhale, and say the thing I really want. "What if we just never came back when the intensive ends?"
Kai looks at me, then down, playing with a briar that's pressing against the bench. "I can't leave my grandmother forever. Five months away from her will be bad enough. You know how she is."
Crazy is how she is. All right, maybe not crazy, but neurotic at least—she sprinkles salt around the entire building on Halloween. She once refused to allow a couple to rent an apartment because they owned a black cat. She spends most of the winter locked up inside, wary to go out among "the beasts." Winter and the beasts it supposedly brings are what she fears most of all.
Neurotic at the very least.
"I know. I was just wondering," I say, which isn't entirely true—I wasn't wondering. I was hoping. For me, it'll be easy to leave and horrible to come back. But I can't stay in New York without Kai, and I'm certainly not going someplace new without him, so ...
Kai slides his hand across mine, and I move closer to him in response. One inch at a time, testing the water until I'm leaning against him, relaxing against his side. He exhales and rests his cheek against my forehead.
"Anyway," he says against my skin, "you never know. Maybe New York will end up sucking."
I frown. "It could really go either way. TV shows have taught me I'll become a fashion magazine intern or be murdered in Central Park."
Kai laughs and pulls me toward him, kissing my cheek briskly, easily. It's a gesture that's evolved—he used to shove me playfully whenever I said something funny, or weird, or particularly me. Then the shove became gentler, then it became him wrapping his arm around me, and now finally, he kisses me. Silently says he loves me without me even trying.
"I guess it doesn't matter," he says as he pulls away, squinting as the sun creeps lower, its bright light rebounding off a condo building. "In the end, it's always just us. Together." It's not a question, not something he doubts or wonders about. "Unless that Central Park murder thing happens."
Now it's my turn to laugh, and as I do I lift up, feel his breath warm my still- freezing nose. We pause for a moment, just a tiny moment, and then our lips meet. This time, it feels like the kissing in movies looks, long and powerful and sweet and as if it's melting me. He smells like cinnamon and soap, same as he always has—
"Whoa," he says, pulling back.
I freeze. "What?" I ask, wondering if I should be embarrassed. What happened?
"Look," he says, pulling one hand away to motion at the world around us. "It's starting to snow."
It's tiny snow, sharp and icy, the sort that you don't want to play in. I see people running to the windows of the glass-and-steel buildings to stare at it whirling around the city. It's gotten colder almost instantly, a fact I don't notice so much as I notice how hard I'm pressing against Kai to combat the new chill. His arms are still around my waist, the unzipped army jacket he always wears open on either side of me.
"It's early for snow," I say, mumbling the words into his shirt.
"Way early," he agrees. "The roses aren't going to last if we're already getting snow in October."
He's right—I look around at the tiny specks of snow that cling to the flowers. They make the roses look sick with something akin to chicken pox, tiny spots covering bright red flesh. The wind rattles them around a bit. Is it snowing harder?
"Let's go inside," he suggests.
"We aren't technically out of school yet," I remind him. "We could build a fire?"
"Yeah ..." Kai says, glancing to the metal barrel on a corner of the roof. We hauled it up here ages ago. Probably not the safest thing in the world, but it's pretty glorious for roasting marshmallows over.
"We could go to my apartment," I say, "if we're quiet. Mom's still sleeping, I think." Truthfully, I'm not sure she knows what time school gets out anyway, though I've never told Kai this. The magic of us sneaking around would be lost if my mother made it easy by way of apathy.
"Nah, I don't want to risk it," Kai says as the snowfall undeniably intensifies. "We can just wait by the roof door till we're out of school. I don't want to be out in this."
"All right," I agree, and he steps away from me; the icy air sweeps around my body. I hug my own coat closer, but it's nothing compared with Kai's chest against me. He lets his fingers pause on mine for a moment, but then releases them, too—the path out of the roses is too narrow to walk side by side. We weave through the flowers, listening to the traffic below slow down to a crawl, drivers inching through the snow as if it's feet thick instead of barely coating the ground. As we reach the access door, the wind picks up, blowing so hard that Kai struggles to open it. He yanks and tugs, and the wind grows stronger.
Are we trapped up here? Kai finds my eyes, and his are full of matching worry. He turns back to the door, leaving room on the handle for me to grab hold, too. Together we wrest the door open, sliding into the stairwell. We're barely on the top step when the door slams shut. The wind howls behind it, as if it's angry. (Continues...)
Cold Spell 4.2 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
I stumbled across the books by Jackson Pearce quite by accident. I enjoy reading twists on other stories. The Snow Queen has always been a favorite of mine (since before Frozen).
I liked Pearce's other books well enough that I bought them all. I read this one last because I was following the order they seemed to go on. Now I wish I had read this one first. To me, it is by far the best. While bringing in elements from the previous books it told a unique story that can stand both equally well alone and following the other books.
Ginny is a very good protagonist and is not overly pretty, perfect or annoying. Kai is also a good, well-rounded character. The Snow Queen is just evil enough, but still someone who can evoke sympathy.
Ginny's journey is great; through it all she becomes stronger and learns that she can both love someone and be independent.
The whole cast of characters, Lucas, Ella, Flannery and Callum add to the overall story.
One of the best reads I have had so far this year.
More than 1 year ago
I really like the story lines of this series but for teen readers, i feel the language is excessive.
More than 1 year ago
I love how threads from the previous books in the series come together in Cold Spell. I'm just realizing that there may have been some in Fathomless; however, I hadn't realized it before because Fathomless was the first book I read in the series. This is really cool because not only are these pretty cool twists on popular fairy tales, they're also interconnected.
Ginny and Kai are wonderful characters. While it is kind of (maybe more than a litle) disturbing that they've known they love each other since they were seven, which is also basically around the time they first met, and they were planning their wedding at the age of eleven, their romance is sweet and touching. It's the love of friends that have always viewed each other as family and never expected to be apart, and from the way they talk to each other it's apparent that they deeply care for each other. It's not the passionate burning that's been swarming the YA lit market. Still, it was frustrating at the beginning how Ginny is so willing to give up her own future to be with Kai, believing her future to be with him. That's why it's a blessing that Kai gets taken by Mora - because Ginny needs this time apart from Kai, this time chasing him down, to learn that she can live without him and that she has talents of her own. I only wish that she didn't find it so easy to get away with running away from home. I don't think it's a great message to send out, and it's getting to be a clichéd trend in YA lit.
Mora is also a compelling character. Though she's the "villain" in this story, she's also a victim of circumstance. I would have liked to learn more of her story, especially how she's connected to the ocean girls of Fathomless. There are so many unanswered questions about how the world and the various books are interconnected. I also love the wonderful comrades that Ginny finds over the course of her journey and how they don't just fade away once they've served their initial purpose. No, they stick around to the end with their awesome personalities. I especially love Lucas and Ella. They're the kinds of people I'd love for friends. They're so nice and welcoming, and they don't hesitate to expend their resources or even put themselves in immediate danger to help a friend.
On the whole, this was a solid story filled with dynamic characters. I especially enjoyed watching as Ginny finally takes charge of her own life, maturing into an independent young woman at the end of the novel. The epilogue was a nice touch to show us where the characters are a year later, and the ending was really sweet and brought a smile to my face.
More than 1 year ago
I have been such a big fan of author Jackson Pearce’s fairy tale retellings. They just seem to be getting better and better with each installment. It started with the badass Sisters Red and now there is Cold Spell a retelling of the Snow Queen. It was fantastic. Amazing. A completely breathtaking read. Honestly, Cold Spell was the best of the series so far.
In Cold Spell Ginny has been friends with Kai since they were kids. They’re best friends, more than friends. Ginny is in love with Kai. Kai is in love with Ginny. She puts up with the fact that his Grandmother Dalia hates her because she knows that they’ll both end up together and that they’ll move to New York. The one thing that Kai’s Grandmother has always raved about were the beasts and Snow Queen and to mind them but neither Kai nor Ginny believe in her stories. They are just stories.
All it takes to change Ginny’s life and relationship with Kai is when his Grandmother is taken away by paramedics and a physically flawless woman named Mora enters their lives. After Kai’s Grandma dies Mora suddenly appears everywhere constantly talking to Kai, constantly trying to take Ginny’s place. The very last thing Ginny expected is for Mora to steal Kai’s heart and in turn steal him away from her.
It’s one discovery that forces Ginny to go after Mora and to take back Kai whether he likes it or not because she knows that somehow something bigger is at work here. Suddenly everything that Grandma Dalia talked about was true. The beasts and the Snow Queen are all very real and very evil. Ginny’s journey to get back the love of her life lead her to the Fenris, a private investigator and his werewolf killing wife and a band of gypsies. Ginny can’t help but wonder if Kai, and her love for him, can be saved.
Okay, everything about Cold Spell was honestly perfect. Amazing. I loved every moment spent reading. The way the characters were written, the way the plot panned out, the emotional depth in Ginny’s thoughts and how much she loves Kai—it was all so perfect. The darkest cutest read I’ve ever gotten the chance to experience.
I do think that a lot of readers are going to love the Kai/Ginny relationship. There is no watching their relationship build up, we’re dropped into the middle of a young relationship and sometimes that doesn’t really work out too well. I know that personally I read a novel that doesn’t show me the couple coming together and it really turns me off and makes it feel fake but so not the case in Cold Spell. The way that Kai leaves Ginny and how much she says she loves him and the sacrifices she makes for him—it all builds their relationship and their relationship’s relationship with the reader. Fantastic.
We do get to see more of what happens to the ‘mermaid’ girls from Fathomless as we get some scenes that are from the antagonist Mora’s point of view. We see what made her villainous, what made her evil and how she came to be this all powerful Snow Queen. I found it really awesome that we got to see some of the villain’s point of view and the reasons behind why they are the way they are. While a backstory may not justify why Mora does what she does it definitely explains it.
If you’ve read her fairy tale retellings them you know that Jackson Pearce’s writing is out of this world. The descriptions are perfect. The world is built amazingly. The characters are so different and constantly developing throughout the novel. If you’ve read Sisters Red, Sweetly and Fathomless you need to get reading Cold Spell. Need to.
I would recommend Cold Spell to readers who are looking for an addictive read that will blow you away. Readers who are fans of romance, retellings and want some werewolf lore mixed into an awesome standalone need to get reading Jackson Pearce’s fairy tale retellings ASAP!
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