Notes: I got an ARC at BEA.
People referred to what happened as 'The Big Freeze'. The gypsies proclaimed it was "The end of the beginning. The beginning of the end." Suggesting 'others' would come from the ice. Other people had been born, as to whether or not any came from the ice, that was left up for debate. The marked, the sylphs, the smallmen, the Enchanters and the Drau all now inhabit the earth and walk among the population. Earth has been devastated. It is frozen over. Its oceans have been poisoned. Its vegetation all but destroyed. Its human and animal populations drastically reduced. Meat is a rarity as is fresh water. Cancer, now referred to as the big 'C', is widespread and the cause of many a premature death. The life expectancy of the average person drastically reduced. A person living to the age of 50 is almost unheard of.
Natasha 'Nat' Kestal is marked. After 'The Big Freeze', dark hair and dark eyes became standard. Babies who were born with eyes of other colors contained marks and displayed a supernatural talent of one kind or another. Gifts of prophecy, telekinesis, etc. are not unheard of. No one knows why the change occurred only that it had, and the marked, when found, are either killed or taken to the labs to be experimented upon. Nat is currently on the run and is hiding in plain sight working as a black jack dealer in one of New Vegas' largest casinos. With the help of special contact lenses, she has been able to hide her unnatural blue eyes, but she knows her days are numbered. There is only one hope that she can survive and live to a decent age. There are rumors of a land, perhaps another world, which is an oasis in this world of ice which is lush with life of all kinds. Many have attempted to find it. Many have died trying. Many believe it does not exist. Desperate times, however, call for desperate measures and Nat is about to make the journey of her lifetime to find it. Whether or not it will be her last and final decision remains to be seen. She'll follow the voice inside her that tells her it's real, and risk everything to gain her freedom or die trying.
This was one of the most original books I've read in a while. It's a dystopian fantasy set in a future with the world experiencing a second ice age. It has a feel of the old mixing with the new. Like the world had taken one step forward and three giant leaps back. With resources limited and most scientists dead, the majority of the world has regressed while some parts are still advancing technologically although at a snails pace. The government has a longer and stronger grip than ever before, and secrets and corruption run rampant.
Natasha is a smart, cautious, and resourceful young woman determined to outwit those who would thwart her. She's managed to find a map to the oasis nicknamed the Blue and will hire a runner to take her. Choosing the right person to take her on her journey is critical because many would sooner sell you out to the government than actually do the job you hire them to. People aren't allowed to roam freely and some places are off limits. Where Nat needs to travel is in the restricted zone so whomever she hires has to have an idea of where they're going and be able to do battle if need be. Choosing the right runner can mean the difference between life and death.
Ryan Wessen is a good looking and has a reputation for being one of the best runners around. Said to have the fastest ship and be able to get people to where they want to go, it's not surprising he'd be Nat's choice. Strangely, when Nat meets him she gets the feeling she knows him from somewhere. While their first encounter makes Nat leery of him, as the two get to know one another, they find themselves attracted to one another. A situation complicated by the fact Nat is hiding her true identity. If he finds she's marked will he betray her as many others would?
Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. I enjoyed it, but so much happened at the end that it left me with more questions than were answered, so I don't feel I can give it a full 5 rose rating. The next book will be a better determiner of how I truly feel about the series. Right now I'm eagerly anticipating the next book and crossing my fingers that it will come out sooner than a year from now.