Set apart by her heritage and her past, Bryn is a tracker who’s determined to become a respected part of her world. She has just one goal: become a member of the elite King’s Guard to protect the royal family. She’s not going to let anything stand in her way, not even a forbidden romance with her boss Ridley Dresden.
But all her plans for the future are put on hold when Konstantin – a fallen hero she once loved – begins kidnapping changelings. Bryn is sent in to help stop him, but will she lose her heart in the process?
There were signs that indicated that Frostfire could be a game-changing book. The characters were trolls, a mythological creature we never see in the YA-fantasy landscape, a determined heroine who is resolute in her goals despite being disadvantaged by her mixed heritage, a forbidden romance, and perhaps a great adventure with a dash of mystery and self-growth. Frostfire seemingly ticked all the boxes of an enjoyable, light-hearted read. As a reader, you learn that some books have these elements that will entice you to read it – ‘strong female characters‘, romances that flourish, a fantastical world that immerses us, a compelling premise – but it does not necessarily make it a good book. A book is like a cake: a cake may appear delicious with its cream-cheese icing and chocolate flakes, but if the cake itself doesn’t taste good, it is not a good cake. Unfortunately, that is the case with Frostfire.
Frostfire by Amanda Hocking is a book brimming with potential. It faces in the right direction with all its ambitious ideas but none of that is evidenced in the novel. Twenty percent into the book, there was an abundance of exposition that felt meaningless and irrelevant to the wider story. I felt lost in Hocking’s world, I felt completely disconnected from it. The writing offers vague clues, but when piecing it together, smoke felt more intelligible. There comes a point when exposition begins to feel like a distraction from the wider picture, like a semblance of depth. Only when the main character provides a history lesson to a character as clueless as us do newcomers learn more about the Kanin, Trylle, and Skojare troll societies. Only then does it feel like the book is developing an iota of structure.
Though, by then many of the book’s shortcomings were beginning to manifest, which snowballs into consequential flaws that are impossible to overlook.
Feeling invested in the book and its characters felt impossible. After the prologue, which showed promise and spurs the main character on a path of vengeance, the plot loses momentum. Nothing happens for most of the book; no plot development nor character development, and most of the narrative is pointless. Bryn, the main character and narrator, is a typical YA heroine whose characterization is centred on being kickass and badass but has no substance or dimension whatsoever, other than being self-righteous and nauseatingly naive (whether she is intentionally naive is unclear, which strikes me as a problem). Whilst I have no problems with flawed characters, there is nothing redeeming about Bryn that balances her out to be a well-rounded, complex character. Worse, rather than being shown these good personal qualities through storytelling, secondary characters (her mentor, friends, family) were treated as tools to convince the reader that Bryn is a cornucopia of strengths and qualities.
“What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing,” Ridley assured me. “You just have strong convictions, and you want to do the right thing.”
(Would you believe it if I told you that Ridley is the love interest?)
The different troll species were difficult to discern from one another and the construction of their societies and politics was uninspired. More so, the trolls are evidently not very troll-like. Aside from having changelings, their Scandinavian roots, being closely connected to nature, and possessing powers, what makes them trolls? They look human, even in the presence of other trolls. The Kanin trolls swindle human trust funds intended for their children (who are actually trolls; the real children are dumped in orphanages) as a means to sustain their economy, and this duplicity is not remotely explored or questioned. The only word of it is when Bryn feels anxious that the individual she is charged with may not trust her and society for it. It thus begs the question: why trolls? Contrived novelty is not a good reason.
Also, what is it, exactly, with Bryn being an ‘outcast’ and ‘inferior’ despite her being white-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed, and attractive? So the novel touches briefly on implicit prejudice, and how her mixed heritage made it difficult to succeed. But white-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed and attractive – was that supposed to be ironic? Do not tell me that the troll society perceive these traits to be lesser traits – it is poor taste and facile. Frostfire could have been an avenue to explore mixed-race heritage and identity, or being part of a society that disadvantages you for something inherent and innate. Really Hocking, you can do better.
The biggest limitation of Frostfire is the writing; it was clunky, the phrasing awkward, and the dialogue banal. Excessively descriptive paragraphs punctuated the narrative leaving little room for the reader’s imagination, forcing my attention on small, intricate details on small, insignificant objects. (Yes, the thing is pretty, but do we need three sentences for it?)
Inside, the palace reminded me of ice. Many of the walls were made of frosted glass several feet thick. The glass appeared bluish, but it had been sandblasted to make it opaque. The other wall were covered in a silvery blue wallpaper that looked like frost.
The poor narrative style and its awkward pacing made Frostfire difficult to pick up again once you put it down. The ideas are present and have potential to be interesting and developed, but it is its execution that fails the story and its content.
Frostfire is regretfully a weak beginning to a series, and overall a weak book. Its flaws hindered my enjoyment of the book, to the extent that it was, at times, exasperating to read. I’m not absolutely lost with Hocking’s concepts and ideas. As earlier emphasized, there is potential in her ideas, and I would be interested in reading future books if and when she improves her writing, can devise compelling plots, and include some much-needed action (not only the punchy-punchy kind, but also the development and growth kind). A disappointing read.
Book Name: Frostfire
Book Series: The Kanin Chronicles #1
Author: Amanda Hocking
Publisher: Pan Macmillan UK