The Witch Who Came in from the Cold: Season One by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Ian Tregillis, Cassandra Rose Clarke, and Michael Swanwick The Witch Who Came In From The Cold: Season One by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Ian Tregillis, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Michael Swanwick
Published by Serial Box Publishing on June 1, 2016
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Spy Thriller
Pages: 624
Format: eARC
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Through a haze of cigarettes and vodka there lies a version of Prague in the heart of the Cold War, where spies practice sorcery in their games of intrigue. While the political lines may be as clear as the Iron Curtain, the battles of magic seldom stay clean and the combating forces of Ice and Flame dance across borders and loyalties. Tanya Morozova is a KGB officer and the latest in a long of Ice sorceresses; Gabe Pritchard is a CIA officer and reluctant Ice recruit. Enemies at one turn, but forced into alliances at the next, their relationship is as explosive as the Cold War itself.

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold was first published weekly on Serial Box, although I read the whole first season as a collection. That means no waiting, but I think I might subscribe for Season 2 next year and read an episode a week, since in theory that’s the way it’s designed to be read.

This was a great mix of fantasy and espionage. Prague in the 1970s is in the midst of the Cold War, with spies from both sides keeping tabs on each other, trying to outwit each other, but there’s another war going on too, a war between Ice and Fire, and your ally in one might be your enemy in the other. Secrets and more secrets, stakeouts and safe houses, clandestine meetings and backroom negotiations. This episode centered around a scientist who was defecting from Russia to the US, but he also has great value for the sorcerers.

I like the world. It’s based in reality and adds on the magic, so we don’t have to really learn the world, more become familiar with the magic system. It doesn’t go much in-depth into how the system works, but I felt like I understood enough to follow the story.

The characters were well drawn, especially Gabe and Tanya. They are both conflicted, they have allegiances to their respective countries, but are also actually good people trying to do their best even when they know they don’t have all the information. They both have magical abilities and I think are more powerful than they have been allowed to show thus far. Actually, all the characters are good. There are things to admire/hate about most of them and several who I’m looking forward to learning more about in the next season.

It did take me a while to read. I enjoyed the story tremendously and liked the characters, but I didn’t feel drawn to pick it up. I think it may have something to do with it being episodes. Even though I didn’t notice the different writers often, the differences in their styles may have made it a bit disjointed, not as smooth as it could have been. Like I mentioned above, I’ll read next season weekly. I think I’ll be looking forward to the next installment. Overall, a great read for urban fantasy readers who enjoy a good spy novel. Hard-core espionage fans might be annoyed by the magic.

And the art at the beginning of each episode was pretty awesome, too.

About Cassandra Rose Clarke

Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a pair of local colleges. She holds an M.A. in creative writing from The University of Texas at Austin, and in 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. Her work has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults.

About Ian Tregillis

Ian Tregillis is the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych, Something More than Night, and the Alchemy Wars trilogy. His most current novel is The Rising (Alchemy Wars #2). His short fiction has appeared at numerous venues including Tor.com, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Popular Science. He lives in New Mexico, where he consorts with writers, scientists, and other disreputable types.

About Lindsay Smith

Lindsay Smith is the author of the YA espionage thrillers Sekret, Skandal, and Dreamstrider, all from Macmillan Children’s. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and dog, where she writes on international issues in cyber security.

About Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone has been thrown from a horse in Mongolia, drank almond milk with monks on Wudang Shan, and wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat. Max is also the author of the Craft Sequence of books about undead gods and skeletal law wizards—Full Fathom Five, Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, and Last First Snow. Max fools everyone by actually writing novels in the coffee shops of Davis Square in Somerville, MA. His dreams are much nicer than you’d expect.

About Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick has received the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy and Hugo Awards. He has written nine novels, 150 short stories, and countless flash fictions.