In Touch of Frost (Kensington 2011), Gwen Frost is not having a good year. First her mother is killed in a horrible car accident and then she’s shipped off to a fancy boarding school that turns out to be a training ground for the descendants of ancient, mythical warriors to learn how to fight the evil forces that plot to free Loki, the Norse god of chaos, and unleash hell on earth. Although, who’s high school wasn’t like that. But Gwen Is Different. You can tell, because unlike the rich Valkyrie and Amazon bitches at her new school, she likes comic books and wears graphic tees and hoodies. (Hey Rhymenocerous, does this make her alternative?) She’s also the only Gypsy of the bunch. And in this mythology, a Gypsy (Gypsies!) is someone who has been gifted magic by the gods, not the ethnic group that cursed Angelus with that pesky soul or the famed burlesque stripper. Gwen’s special power is psychometry, the ability to know an object’s history just by touching it. I actually had a French teacher in high school who claimed to have this ability. He took my ring and said that he saw the letter “S.” Gee, that’s specific. Y’all will be shocked to find out that I did not learn a whole lot of French in that class. I did get an A though, so yay for the American public educational system.
ANYWAY. Gwen is flying under the radar, using her ability to find people’s stuff for a little extra cash, when she’s attacked while an important magical artifact is stolen (Thieves!) and the mean Queen Bee is murdered. Upset that nobody seems to care that a girl was murdered right on campus (the girl’s best friend and boyfriend are even already hooking up which gives us the Tramps! in order to complete our post title trifecta), Gwen resolves to find out what happened to Jasmine, the aforementioned Queen Bee and enlists (well blackmails is probably the more appropriate term) the help of Daphne, Mean Girl and closet computer nerd. She also attracts the attention of bad-boy Logan, a Spartan who has the ability to pick up anything and turn it into a deadly weapon. Even like a twizzler. And along the way, Gwen discovers that not only is she different, but she might just have a destiny.
I picked up this book because I’m a fan of author Jennifer Estep’s Bigtime superhero series. Estep can sometimes be a bit clunky with the emotional lives of her characters, but I think she has a real knack for building the interesting alternative realities that her characters inhabit. She peppers these worlds with a lot of little details that make them seem real. Now this is the first book in a YA fantasy series so there is a LOT of exposition, but the plot moves along at a fairly brisk pace and there’s some good action and twists along the way. It’s kind of impossible not to compare the book to Rick Riordan’s superior middle-grade Percy Jackson series (and we’ll get to those books later), but the mythology subject is a relatively fresh angle in the YA market, particularly for those of us who are sick of vampires and dystopias already.
For the most part, I enjoyed Gwen as a character, although sometimes Estep pushes the geeky outsider thing a little too much. She’s feisty and direct and I liked how, for the most part, she wasn’t all angsty about her psychic power. Though her gift has consequences, she likes knowing peoples secrets and uses it for monetary gain. I think I’d probably be the same way. However, the thing that annoyed me the most about the character is Gwen’s refusal to believe that the mythological gods are real. I know the disbeliever is a trope, but I’m sorry, YOU HAVE A MAGICAL POWER! You know your mother and grandmother also have magical powers! Every single person at that freaking school has some kind of supernatural ability! You accept all this, no problem. But the idea that the gods were real and myths are actually history? Why that’s just crazy talk. Ugh.
I don’t think Touch of Frost is an instant classic, but it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a fast and fun read. And I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel when it comes out. Cause did I mention that there’s a talking sword named Vic? Yeah, and he’s awesome.