Audio Review: A Long, Cold Winter (The Witch Who Came In From the Cold) by Lindsay Smith and Max Gladstone

A Cold, Long Winter is the first episode in The Witch Who Came In From the Cold. I’m so glad I decided to review the audio format because it really helped to cement the setting and tone of Prague, a city full of spies and the hints of witches and sorcerers of the Ice and Flame battling a war that is invisible to most of the human world.

The setting of the beginning was great. Cold and suspenseful with an edge of anticipation. It sets up a very well known real-life premise of the Cold War. Tatiana, with the help of fellow agent, Nadia, is a KGB agent on the look-out for a target. At first the target and the reasonings for the target remains a mystery. But then the magic is slowly hinted at, with charms and talismans that Tanya holds, but it doesn’t go into great detail. It’s something of a vague but tantalising beginning with Tatiana’s POV that ends quickly before moving onto Gabe’s POV.

Gabe is the other protagonist; a CIA agent posing as an US embassy worker. He’s sitting at a bar trying to get his target drunk enough to reveal secrets. Gabe’s cover at the embassy is working and in six months he has purposely fostered a friendly and warm relationship with his target. This part was slow and dry, with nothing much revealed, other than Gabe’s horrendous migraine that has left him incapable of using his skills to get the man to talk. Again the setting is distinct but nothing much happens until towards the end where it’s revealed that Gabe’s pain is not just a migraine. His painful symptoms manifested from something that happened when he worked in Cairo, and he tried his best to ignore whatever was going on inside him.

One of the main issues I had with episode one is the fast moving POVs. As soon as you get into one protagonist’s POV, it moves on very swiftly and sometimes abruptly to the next protagonist. It was a little frustrating.

I was engaged more with Tatiana story as it was more action-packed and revealed more of what was happening in the magical world. Tatiana works in two worlds. That of her role as a KGB agent and then as a witch in the magical world. Tatiana is a witch from Ice, and the Ice and the Flame have been battling a war against each other for umpteen years. Some of the magic shown was really interesting, such as constructs made out of stones, metals and other elements through elemental energy. Though it was confusing trying to figure out how the construct and host and elementals were interconnected.

Not much of the magical world building has been revealed yet–only hints and glances. I am looking forward to episode two, which I’ll review soon.

A Long, Cold Winter was an enjoyable introduction to a world of magic and spies. B

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