Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: Sept. 17, 2013
Recipe Variables: violence, drug references
Series: Heart of Dread
Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.
At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she’s heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.
But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all. This is a remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.
Some things are considered classic: 1969 Mustangs, little black dresses, and chocolate-dipped frozen bananas sold at county fairs. This chick finds it hard to mess with that formula, but De La Cruz and Johnston’s foray into the exploding dystopian market sure comes close to meeting that mark of fabulous. I swear from the start of this read I was c-o-l-d, as in frozen to my seat so I could find out what happened next in the story.
The female protagonist, Nat, has secrets from the outset even from the reader. She has an inner voice speaking to her, directing her towards her destiny; however, it’s unclear if that fate is for good or evil. Ryan Wesson, or “Wes”, is her counterpart, the typical version of hot: as hell, under the collar, and as a pistol. Together, these two characters instantly combust, especially once the action moves to the boat Wes captains—The Albatross. (Yes! The authors incorporate wonderful, beautiful, and spot-on references to the classics of old.) Even though I enjoyed the description and plot at the beginning of the story set in New Vegas, the tale picked up tremendously once the renegades hit the open seas.
The flavor I savored the most, however, was when I bit into the rich layers De La Cruz and Johnston cooked up for a new twist on the dystopian franchise by adding a wonderful swirl of magic and fantasy by revealing Nat’s calling as a dragon rider. The only time things became stilted was when the authors tried to stuff too much explanation and background into the chocolaty shell of the banana, causing it to fall off the stick every now and again. But make no mistake; I’m buying a ticket to next year’s fair for my opportunity to taste the sequel.