Frozen (Heart of Dread #1), by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston.
The voice in her head was the reason her eyes were not brown or gray. Her clear tiger eyes - hazel-green with the golden pupils - that told the world she carried a mark on her skin, one that she kept hidden, one that was shaped like a flame and hurt like a burn, right above her heart. The reason she was imprisoned, the reason they wanted her to do as she was told.
The girl didn't want to be different. She did not want to be marked. She did not want to be what the voice said she was. What the commander and the doctors believed she was. A freak. A monster.
She never told them about the voice in her head.
But they found ways to use her anyway.
Melissa de la Cruz has done it again, and this time her husband - formerly a silent partner in the Blue Bloods series and her other work, apparently - is collaborating with her on this new series, Heart of Dread. We are introduced to Nat, a teenager with some special talents, who wants to find her way to "the Blue" - this dystopia's version of paradise, if it indeed exists.
From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.
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 to take her 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.
de la Cruz is a master at her craft, and this book is no different. I love dystopian novels, and although I wish this novel had more of a concrete ending, I'm excited to read book 2 in the series, whenever that is released.
I was fascinated by the "New Vegas" concept too - de la Cruz definitely knows her way around Vegas, as she mentions the Wynn hotel, now called The Loss, as well as the Bellagio and a few of the hotels that are still around in this new city. People pay for things with "heat credits," which reminded me of the movie In Time a bit (paying with time versus credits, though), and Wes (Ryan Wesson) and his band of guys are constantly poor and looking for ways to make money. Wes agrees to ferry Nat to the Blue for a price, but he doesn't bargain on falling in love with her in the process.
This book would be great as a movie, too, in my opinion - hopefully the rights will be sold at some point, although I believe the Blue Bloods series has yet to be made into a movie, and same for The Au Pairs, also by her.
4 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.