Dear Ms. Martine:
This is a follow up to your debut book, Liquid Lies, which I found refreshing and different. But the end of Liquid Lies leaves Xavier, a man of otherworldly powers, alone and adrift. The direction of the story involves more creatures with otherworldly powers being misused by humans for a sexual purpose. In some ways, A Taste of Ice repeats the main emotional conflict of Liquid Lies but without the conflicted loyalties. Instead we have a rapacious son gathering power in order to impress his father. So much time is spent to make a reader appreciate his nuanced presentation as a man who loved his brother but was still willing to cage and mistreat others for his own personal gain. Instead, however, the villain came off as plastic and obvious.
Xavier is an elemental who is trying to build a new life for himself and because of his sordid past abstains from intimate contact with the opposite sex. A literal voice in his head is constantly mocking his monk like pretensions, urging Xavier to go forth and sin because that is his nature. Xavier has tried to bury himself in a small town in Colorado, far from the water and temptation. He works as a chef at a local eatery and keeps to himself.
Cat Heddig is a newly discovered artist. Her surprising and moving art pieces depicting water has been given a gallery showing during a famous film festival in Colorado. There she meets Xavier and the two connect immediately. Cat and Xavier are built from the same cloth. They have extra special powers and find release in their passions. For Cat it is painting and Xavier it is his cooking.
Xavier is presented in a cacophonous fashion. He is awkward and shy, resistant to these lustfilled thoughts Cat incites, unfamiliar with pleasuring a woman though he’s had many. But, when necessary to infuse a certain machismo into the story, he’s aggressive and insightful in ways that don’t appear consistent. When Michael, the gallery owner, stares too long at Cat’s mouth, Xavier confronts her:
“That’s all part of it. He wants you to think that.” The balls of his fists bulged in his coat pockets. The clench in his jaw sharply tuned the angles of his face. “Are you used to guys just coming right out and hitting on you?
He suggests there is “all sorts of shit going on with him below the surface.”
While the plot wasn’t as intriguing or surprising as the first in the Elementals series, the prose had bits of loveliness scattered throughout. Cat, particularly, thought in poetic terms. Xavier was like “a granule of beach sand in this cold, waterless part of the world” or a “book of a million pages, written in teeny tiny type.” The pairing of Cat and Xavier, despite their similarities, is a bit of a Romeo and Juliet story given Xavier’s hatred for water elementals and Cat’s affinity for water.
Xavier knew she painted water. Had prepared himself for the moment when he saw how she viewed the element that had caused him so much pain. He just hadn’t expected to love the paintings so much.
I wondered if the name “Cat” was consciously chosen as a parable in and of itself like Billy Budd’s name in Moby Dick. The denouement was more geared toward the world building than the romance, as if the romance got lost toward the end and then picked up absently in the last few pages. I wondered if it would have been better told just from Cat’s point of view as so much of the story revolved around her and her role in the Elementals world.
While the story didn’t quite work for me, the writing voice is compelling. C