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The Witch Who Came in From the Cold - Season…

The Witch Who Came in From the Cold - Season One Volume One

by Lindsay Smith

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The Witch Who Came in from the Cold mixes Cold War intrigue with urban fantasy to create a fantastic and original story.

Before I say anything else, I should note that The Witch Who Came in from the Cold is a Serial Box story. Serial Box is a fairly new company that releases “episodes” of serial stories that together make up a “season.” Basically, a written story told in a format more akin to weekly television. Each Serial Box story brings in multiple writers who work together to create the season.

In Prague, both KGB and CIA agents scheme on behalf of their respected countries. But there’s another divide that lies beneath the feuding nations: the magical organizations of Ice and Flame. The Flame wants to see the world burn and built anew from the ashes. The Ice wants to prevent this happening. And magicians loyalties to the Ice or Flame are greater than any national divide. Whether KGB or MI6, Ice agents will cooperate to stop the Flame. Tanya Morozova is a KGB operative and sorceress for the Ice, but she’s beginning to wonder how much the Ice can be trusted. Gabe Pritchard is a CIA operative, but he’s beginning to realize there’s more to the world. Something happened to him in Cairo, and nothing’s been right since… But when he seeks help, he’s directed towards Tanya Morozova. They are enemies in one conflict and allies in another.

I’ve always had a certain enjoyment for spy stories. Be it James Bond or The Americans, I love the shifting webs of loyalties and the questions of who can be trusted. The Witch Who Came in from the Cold amplified those facets with the creation of a whole other level. Plus, magic! Fantasy is my favorite genre, so this mash up had immense appeal to me.

Gabe was obviously the reader’s surrogate. He’s just become aware that magic exists in the world, so the reader is learning about it right along side him. Plus, he’s the fairly typical lead – a straight white American. However, The Witch Who Came in from the Cold contained some really awesome female character’s as well. Tanya is probably my favorite, and I love how she works alongside Nadia, another KGB and Ice operative. There’s also a supporting CIA character who’s gay, and I’m glad that The Witch Who Came in from the Cold chose to address his story.

I’ve had mixed results with the Serial Box format. Sometimes I’ve been thrown off by the transitions between different authors. In the case of The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, the different authors felt entirely seamless. This story did feel less episodic than some of the other Serial Box offerings. Each episode felt more like chapters in a larger story than self contained episodes with their own arcs. It might have made it more difficult to read an episode a week, but it lent itself well to binge reading the entire season in one go. Which to be fair is how I prefer to view my television too.

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold is a slow burn story, filled with simmering intrigue. The motivations of both the Ice and Flame are shadowy, and I still don’t know if either side can be entirely trusted. The plot was filled with twists and turns that kept me flipping the pages. I can’t wait for more! Bring on season two.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.

I received an ARC of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review. ( )
  pwaites | Mar 1, 2017 |
A silly, but engaging spy romp in 1970's Prague. With magic added, literally. Most of the spies here are also magicians, fighting another, older war between Fire and Ice underneath their capitalist/communist one. Of course, most of the tension comes from the fact that Fire and Ice don't match up with East and West. So we have *gasp* CIA and MI6 agents having to consort with KGB in the magic war, while trying to hide their liaisons from their respective economic ideological sides.

So yeah, pretty silly.

Originally published as a serial, it's an interesting idea: basically high-end television, but in reading form (if you were to read it as a serial, as opposed to me who got a copy from Netgalley and read it all at once). As such, there are times where it feels more like teleplay than fiction, but not often. The main issue is that it's just so much. I guess I've never really binge-watched television. Binge-reading The Witch Who Came in From the Cold was a bit of a task, especially, in doing so, it tends to magnify some of the plotting issues. Each chapter is a different day, and while they are chronological, the jumps aren't smooth and, while the story sets them at days, the character and plot development that happens off-page often makes it seem like the jumps are weeks long. What happens in these gaps often seems more interesting than the mundaneness of espionage (like what exactly is Gabe doing to himself with the mercury?) Having, it seems, every character leading a double-life as spy/magician starts to feel very, very unlikely. The magical villains are all fairly predictable villains of the Snidely-Whiplash-twirling-mustaches-variety; for a story that goes out of its way to humanize both capitalists pigs and commies, there is no attempt to humanize the "bad" side of magical war.

But it's a romp. A big, blockbuster series/summer movie sort of romp. Try not to take it too seriously and maybe it won't matter. It killed a few days of reading time.

The Witch Who Came in From the Cold by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Ian Tregillis, Cassandra Rose Clarke, and Michael Swanwick went on sale June 1, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  reluctantm | Jul 2, 2016 |
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