WARNING: There will be spoilers for the first book, Touch of Frost, if you care about that sort of thing.
When we last saw our heroine, Gwen had become the latest Frost woman to accept the role as champion of Nike, the goddess of victory. This gig comes with a bloodthirsty, talking sword named Vic and a bunch of enemies called reapers, acolytes for Loki, the trapped god of chaos. And Gwen asked out Logan, the bad-boy Spartan who saved her life. She was brutally rebuffed (sorry, I watched Clueless recently) but it’s obvious that he has feelings for her. So Gwen has a lot on her plate right now.
Kiss of Frost (Kensington 2011) picks up right where the first book left off. Gwen is training in swordplay and archery with Logan in the hopes that she’ll be able to fight back the next time a reaper attacks, but it’s not going too well. Plus, she has a front row seat every time Logan sticks his tongue down his girlfriend’s throat. So she’s pretty excited when she meets a new guy at the school’s annual ski trip and winter carnival. The only damper on the trip is that a reaper keeps trying to kill her in really inventive ways. (Honestly though, who hasn’t had that happen to them on a school trip?) Gwen learns a bit more about her powers, a (glaringly obvious) family secret is revealed, and we learn just how close Loki is to escaping his prison and endangering the entire world.
As I was reading over my review of the first book, I realized that it contained most of the points that I wanted to make about this book: interesting mythology, good action, awkwardly written romance, strong heroine who can be remarkably dense about things, etc. It’s fitting since the plot of book 2 is not all that different than the plot of book one. Someone is trying to kill Gwen using a mythological creature and she fights back. Logan is drawn to Gwen but has secrets. Gwen discovers a family secret that leaves her more committed to the fight than ever. Blah, blah, blah. We find a bit more about Loki, but the romance is the only storyline that gets any real movement and it’s the part of the narrative that doesn’t really work for me.
But eye-rolling romance aside, my biggest problem with story was with Gwen herself. Now, I like the character, but for someone who is described as really smart, she can be stunningly clueless. By the way, this upcoming rant is about a pretty big plot reveal, so avert your eyes if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Gwen finds out that her mother was really murdered by reapers and that everyone has been lying to her about it. OF COURSE SHE WAS! I figured that out the first time I read that her mom had died in a car accident. Nobody in a supernatural novel dies from a mere car crash! And granted, unlike Gwen, I have the benefit of knowing that I’m reading a supernatural story, but COME ON. I’m guessing Jennifer Estep wanted the dramatic reveal of Gwen finding out by using her her pychometry on one of the murderers, but Gwen found out that her mom used to be Nike’s champion and never thinks that there might be more to her death than she’s been led to believe? It seriously makes me doubt her intelligence.
And on a similar note, Gwen is a less capable fighter than the rest of her classmates because her mom and grandma shielded her from the mythological world. I think we’re supposed to think this is noble, but considering that every Frost woman has ended up as Nike’s champion, they had to know that there was a pretty good chance that Gwen would too. So by giving her a normal childhood and not training her to fight like the rest of her peers, they’ve actually made it much more difficult for her now that people are trying to kill her all the damn time. Way to go! I’d be seriously pissed if I was Gwen.
It may not seem like it, but I did enjoy the story, though there’s definitely a sense of diminishing returns here. I’m a little less enthusiastic about reading book 3 than I was about reading book two, but I do want to see where the story goes. Hopefully we’ll get a lot more movement in the next one. And a lot more of Vic, the talking sword who wants to kill reapers as violently as possible. In fact, I would totally read an anthology about Nike’s Champions told from Vic’s point of view. Jennifer Estep, you might want to think about it.