Touch of Frost
by Jennifer Estep
9780758266927, $9.95, Kensington Publishing Corporation
Gwen Frost's mother died 6 months ago, on the same day Gwen fully realized her Gypsy Gift. Both her mother and her grandmother have Gypsy magic; Gwen's Gift is psychometry magic - the ability to see people's thoughts, memories, and actions by touching an object. She can see every person who has ever touched that object, feel their emotions, almost read their minds. After an incident in Gwen's public high school involving a hairbrush and a child molester indirectly leads to Gwen's mother's death, Gwen is sent to Mythos Academy, the special private school where boys and girls with powers go to learn how to use them.
Not just any kids go to Mythos Academy. These are the descendents of mythological figures: Amazons, Spartans, Titans, Greek Gods & Goddesses, and Gwen - the Gypsy. Gwen feels like even more of an outsider at this new school, where she's not good at fighting, doesn't care about learning history/mythology, and only wants to read her comic books and sneak off-campus back to her grandmother's house. When a murder in the library leaves one student dead and Gwen unconscious, Gwen finally wakes up to the fact that all this mythology might be as real as the teachers and other students say it is. Disturbed by the fact that none of the other students seem fazed by the death of the most popular girl in school, Gwen decides to investigate the murder herself.
Throughout the course of her investigation, Gwen will engage in some breaking-and-entering, reluctantly make or make a reluctant new friend, and keep running into (literally) Logan Quinn, the best Spartan fighter with a killer ladies' man reputation in the school. By the end of book one in this new YA series, Gwen will have solved the mystery of the murder, learned more about her Gypsy gift, inherited an ancient weapon, been honored by the gods, and will almost have started dating Logan Quinn.
This was a promising beginning to a new series, though honestly, I believe it could have used some tighter editing. Readers of Estep's adult Elemental Assassin series will recognize the same snarky sense of humor and addiction to describing food that Gin Blanco exhibits, but unfortunately I don't think it works as well on Gwen Frost. The descriptions of food are, frankly, pedestrian and add nothing to the story. Gwen isn't like Gin; she doesn't own a restaurant or cook to relieve stress. So why the emphasis on the creamy cream cheese frosting? In addition, Gwen is so disturbingly like Bella Swan (sorry for this obvious comparison) with her "I'm so average and a loner but actually want friends" persona, that her snarky attitude actually seems at odds with her self-description and loner behavior. The "poor me, why do the teachers think I'm special, I just have this one power that isn't very helpful" attitude is not only grating but doesn't seem to reflect her confident speaking voice or her initiative-taking actions in certain scenes.
Luckily, the "poor me, why me" phase seems to get beaten out of her by the end of book one, where she manages to avoid getting killed long enough for Logan to save the day and for neither one of them to get any credit for it. She's supposed to be receiving fighting lessons from Logan, her assigned personal trainer, and as long as he pulls the stick out of his butt and starts explaining why he's running so hot and cold about his feelings for Gwen, I'm sure all will be well there. I'm looking forward to following this saga in book 2, because despite the loose writing, the story is compelling.