Holmberg, Charlie N. Followed by Frost (2015). 47North. 232 Pages
Seventeen-year-old Smitha’s wealth, status, and beauty make her the envy of her town—until she rejects a strange man’s marriage proposal and disastrous consequences follow. Smitha becomes cursed, and frost begins to encompass everything she touches. Banished to the hills, hunted by villagers, and chilled to the very core of her soul, she finds companionship with Death, who longs to coax her into his isolated world. But Smitha’s desire for life proves stronger than despair, and a newfound purpose gives her hope. Will regrets over the past and an unexpected desire for a man she cannot touch be enough to warm Smitha’s heart, or will Death forever still it?
I have known cold.
I have known the cold that freezes to the bones, to the spirit itself. The cold that stills the heart and crystallizes the blood. The kind of cold that even fire fears, that can turn a woman to glass.
I have seen Death.
The cold lured him to me. I saw him near my home, his dark hair rippling over one shoulder like thick forest smoke as he stooped over the bed of the quarryman’s only son.
I have a lot of feelings about this book, in a good way. I got completely and utterly sucked into it; I started it during my morning commute and thought about it all day. I devoured more on my train ride home, and when I actually got home, I settled down on the couch to finish it as quickly as I could. It entertained me, and at one point, made me cry. Not many books can claim that honor.
There are a lot of fairy tale elements in this story, and they all help to build both the plot and the reader’s expectations.
When the novel begins, Smitha is an obnoxious, spoiled brat. She is vain and cruel and incredibly selfish, and there is no way to like her. This all catches up with her within the first few chapters, and we find her cursed and alone. She must suffer to learn her lesson, and though that kind of story can be difficult to stomach at times, it is handled well.
Things keep getting worse and worse for Smitha; she’s cold, half-starved, and isolated. The coldness that surrounds her kills the people around her, and because of this, the only humans she encounters find her threatening, and some even try to kill her. Eventually, this changes, and Smitha is given an opportunity to use her curse for good. This is when she does most of her growing and becomes a better person.
There is a wonderful, realistic romance that builds in the later half of the book. It develops slowly, and sort of sneaks up on you, and if you’re like me, you’ll find you’re invested in their happiness before you’re ever fully aware of why.
It’s not exactly a fun book, but it is good, and I’m glad I read it. It has a strong plot, a good story, and I enjoyed it. It gets a 4.5/5.