Heart of Dread: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

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 rumours 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 there. 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.
Release Date: 2nd October (UK)
Out now (US)
Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books (Orchard Books)
Thanks to Netgalley and Orchard Books for the eBook.
Welcome to the apocalypse, where the world has frozen and new innovations will never be found.  Where those with the magic mark are captured and used, then left to rot. Where children are soldiers and generals, because you will rarely reach 40.  Where, you will more likely to know how to fire a gun, rather than be able to read.
We meet Nat, a marked individual who is marked and hears a strange voice in her head. She has been in the institute for years, forced to do terrible things when eventually she escapes to New Vegas. She now lives a life as a card handler in the casino’s, counting cards and stopping people win big. That was until she was targeted by a thief and manages, herself to steal four platinum chips. This is her ticket, her way out, her ticket to the Blue.
Wes is an ex-soldier who, along with his gang take people across the wastelands, and the toxic sea to the places they pay for. A highly dangerous and time consuming job, he will rarely take these on. This leads to him and his team barely surviving in the frozen city, so when Nat calls his team, he cannot turn down this opportunity.
So, de la Cruz and Johnston weave this story of fantasy, danger, action and romance. There is never a dull moment of story, it is always twisting and turning. Revealing more about the characters and the world they are in. How do they survive the cold, and how exactly do “Marked” people become zombies? 
The characters, are somewhat well made, we have a good visual for some whereas others are just a mystery. Albeit this they all have a personality that will make them slightly more distinguishable amongst the crowd of them in the book.  There are maybe too much, with some of the minor characters getting lost and confused in the background of the story and if they die, you go “Which one were they?”. However They have made Nat and Wes’s personalities very well made, they both compliment each other and bang against. It is a good paring.
The authors have made sure the relationship between Wes and Nat is a steady building relationship where they start off as acquaintances, then friends then slowly move towards love while rejecting the thought of it until the more dire situations. This makes the romance in the story almost bitter sweet and makes you understand why they reject yet fight for one another.
As much as I love fantasy and magic, it was lost in this book. Nat is
marked, so she has powers yet they fluctuate and change depending on the situation. However the reader is never clear WHEN her powers are in focus or not. It gets lost and confused within the story. There is so much going on, maybe they should have cut out one of the elements to make it flow better.
Overall this story has all the plot twists, action and romance to keep any reader interested. It has all the skill and story telling well known from de la Cruz with the flair from Johnston that really brings this book to life. I would recommend this book to many people to read as it has a spark and the promise needed for any book and series to keep me coming back.

Talia

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