Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

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Heart of dread series, bk 1. Orchard, 2014. ISBN 9781408334669
(Age: 15+) Post-Apocalyptic fiction. Gambling. Dystopia. Adventure. Natasha Kestal is trying to get out of New Vegas, a city now covered in ice, but still a place where crowds come to the casino in a desperate bid to win. Nat is a blackjack dealer who longs to go to 'the Blue' a mythical place where the sky is still blue and the sun shines. She bets on a little group of mercenaries led by Ryan Wesson to get her there, but can she keep the mark showing her magical nature a secret from this ragtag group?
This is a strange blend of fantasy and science fiction. There are the usual features of fantasy: dragons and little men, but the world that is inhabited is one that has been taken over by ice and fits into a scenario usually found in Science Fiction. This interesting world provides the background for the action that is the predominant feature of the book. Thrills and spills galore, chases through the countryside and danger at sea and evil pirates all keep the reader engaged.
Natasha, the main character is likeable and it is easy to become engrossed in her struggle with her magical nature and her dream of arriving in a safe place. The budding romance between her and Ryan is secondary to the action, but there is enough to keep those who enjoy romance keen to find out how it progresses.
Short sentences would make it a relative easy read for less able and reluctant readers. However the gambling background of Las Vegas and the age of the protagonists lends itself to older adolescents. A cliff-hanger will ensure that those who enjoyed the story will pick up the next in the series.
Pat Pledger