Discussion Spoiler Thread: Cold Steel & Spiritwalker Trilogy

Books are in people’s hands already so time to open up a thread for discussion of Cold Steel and the trilogy as a whole.

If you want to make a comment, ask a question, discuss where I can hear and join in or where you know you’ll be able to talk to other people who have read the books: This is the place.

If you prefer to talk where I can’t listen in, this is not the place (and there are plenty of great places to do that, too!)(I also totally get the desire/need to talk about a book where the author can’t hear).

There will be spoilers for the entire trilogy.


A quick reminder of appearances, listed in full in this post:

University Bookstore Seattle WA 7 pm Monday July 8

Powells-Cedar Hills Crossing Portland OR 7 pm Tuesday July 9.


I won’t be online much for the next few weeks but I will check this blog every day–and you may find me on Twitter (KateElliottSFF) and occasionally FB (Kate Elliott).

47 thoughts on “Discussion Spoiler Thread: Cold Steel & Spiritwalker Trilogy

  1. Oh my god can tomorrow be here already! I’ve re-read Cold Fire 3 times in the past month waiting!!!

  2. All those wonderful details everywhere in the book… I just noticed that Cat is not able to say that she won’t sacrifice herself, when she talks to Bee in Cold Fire. How can I have missed that before ?

  3. I’m not sure I should discuss the book before my review pops up.

    Anyway, really liked the last volume.

    –Not sure, but the Camjata storyline feels a bit like a petering out once Cat and Bee go to pursue Drake.

    –Drake really comes into his own as a villain in this volume.

    –Cat was awfully clever in dealing with the Spirit Court and their teind. A neat solution–but perhaps needed more foreshadowing?

    –Bee really, really comes into her own in this book.

    –Overall, its quite an achievement to manage a first person perspective on an epic fantasy trilogy, Kate!

  4. Thank you!

    There are a lot of details, and mostly I knew what I was doing although sometimes I went off in a different way than I had originally planned and then had to hope I could make things fit back together.

  5. Thank you, Paul.

    The Camjiata storyline is finished in terms of the TRILOGY at the gates of Lutetia when he says “but not today.” How his campaign plays out in the long run is another story, of course, and it has just begun. I really had wanted to spend some time in Iberia as he gathers his forces but I simply did not have room–the book is quite long already.

    There are several references to blood in the text of Cold Steel. As narrator, Cat holds her cards close to her chest. I say that as explanation, not to suggest you are wrong in wanting more foreshadowing.

  6. One of the things I love about the series is how much Cat and Bee love each other and how deep their friendship is. I feel that too many times, in books with romance, the deep quality of friendship is lost when convenient. I love knowing that, despite everything that might happen in their lives, Cat and Bee will always be each other’s safe harbors. And I love that Andevai knows that and accepts that and honors that relationship (though Bee does the same for Cat).

  7. Does that mean there might be more books forthcoming in a different story arc?

  8. For me, anyway, book 2 dropped enough hints that I was expecting the ghouls to be what they were. And Cat’s immediate consultation about contracts after her sire’s intervention, along with the trilogy-spanning theme of rei vindicatio led me to expect something along the lines of what happened with the court (though some of the details were a clever surprise).

  9. I agree completely. It’s a wonderfully realized relationship that really fleshes out (and anchors) both –really all three– of the characters in a way that’s missing from a lot of SF&F. Not to mention that it’s just a joy to read their banter. 🙂

  10. I just wanted to say that Cold Steel has probably my favorite ending of any book I’ve ever read: Satisfying, totally in character, funny, and artistic. Thank you for giving us this beautiful story.

  11. Exactly. The foreshadowing starts in book one when Bran Cof whispers “rei vindicatio” — that thematically runs through the whole thing.

  12. I remember back when I was young and as girls we were told that any girl or woman would ALWAYS abandon her female friendships if she needed to in favor of a man/romantic relationship. It always made me so angry because my friendships mattered so much to me, and that’s one of the reasons I have always foregrounded female friendships in my books.

  13. Alan, thank you so much. I’ve been writing toward that ending for a long time, and it makes me very happy to know it worked for you!

  14. I’m afraid this is going to sound like a very banal question but what SHAPE is a ‘dash jacket’?

    I’m re- reading Cold Fire before going onto Cold Steel and am having the same trouble I did at first in being able to see people in my mind’s eye. I can anchor the colours and prints in African textiles and the fabrics and layers in the need for warmth but Vai’s 5-caped coat sends me into Georgette Heyer territory. I know the dash jacket is long but is it cutaway as in Regency styles ( which would appear the antithesis of the fabric) or something entirely different?

    Did you base the clothes on any particular period when you were visualising your world?

  15. Yes. This. I experienced this quite a lot when I was younger — my worst managers were always women who felt they had to harder on the women in their org, then the men. I love how Cat and Bree’s friendship and love never wavers, despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges.

  16. I have to second this. What a perfect conclusion. And those are so hard to write. Thank you every single, delightful page.

  17. Kate- in your mind, what exactly became of Amadou Barry? I’ve always wondered what happens to those living beings washed by the tide. (In Cold Fire, I wondered with Cat about Via’s grandmother and the stone.) Especially curious since the spirit animals are terrified of it and animal instincts are so much better than our own.

  18. I think of the dash jacket as the love child of a frock coat and a yorobani (it’s a common West African style — called different names in different languages, obviously). I did deliberately intend to suggest some relationship to 18th/early 19th century European styles with the caped overcoat.

  19. Spirit creatures caught in the tide are changed (as the story shows a couple of times, primarily in Cold Fire). Any spirit creature with consciousness–whether an eru or Rory’s pride of sabertooth cats–seeks warded ground because they do not want to be changed; they want to maintain the form they are in.

    Mortal people (human beings) can’t change; they are washed into the Great Smoke, where they most likely asphyxiate. It is also possible in some cases that they are caught in a current of past or future and dragged somewhere else. As for Amadou Barry, I have always assumed that he drowned in the Great Smoke.

  20. I agree, Carolee:

    I’ve read so many otherwise good books that have been, if not ruined, at least cheapened by endings that were weaker than the body of the story. I think it must be a hard task to find a satisfying way to extract your reader from the flow of the story, especially when you have a multi-book story arc to wrap up.

    This one struck me as perfect. I wasn’t eager to see Cat go, but she made such a graceful and amusing exit that I couldn’t begin to begrudge it.

  21. I just saw Cold Steel listed among the July Movers & Shakers on Goodreads! Nice!

  22. Not at the moment although you will note that I did leave the situation open for further adventures. But I do hope to write a set of short stories, most from Vai’s point of view, that cover some of the territory of the trilogy and then deal with a couple of events after the end.

  23. I too have to say how much I have really enjoyed the trilogy, especially the re-reading of it. I am particularly struck this time around reading Cold Fire after having finished Cold Steel, about how you don’t really have villans, but instead people who are motivated by a series of complex pushes and pulls of desire. I love that. I love that an enemy in one scene can be a respected companion in another. Bravo!

  24. Thank you so much!

    I can happily write villains (see Hugh in Crown of Stars) but I don’t think they are necessarily right for every plot. As you say, the push and pull of conflicting goals and desires can be as much or more interesting, and regardless one of the things I wanted to explore in Spiritwalker is ends and means as well as how people can be working toward similar goals but in hugely variant ways that may seem quite wrongheaded or even unjust to others who might otherwise seem to be their natural allies.

    Also, Camjiata just was too spectacularly sure of himself to ever allow himself to be cast as any kind of villain.

  25. I’m little over halfway done with Cold Steel, and I’m loving it! I just got to the dinner with the beet soup, and I thought Cat was rather restrained, given the revelation. (It was one of those I had to go back and read, then wonder if I were reading into it. But given Rory’s experiences in the village, I don’t think I am…)

    The cacacia was a nice thread of dark humor, too. (Don’t want to spoil too much for those who haven’t read it yet.)

  26. You are correct about what happened to Vai when he was 16. I could find no way to state it baldly that wouldn’t have felt awkward, so on the whole I think it worked better revealed this way even though I suspect some readers won’t make the connection. It’s certainly not anything he would ever talk about. And Cat, of course, has no recourse whatsoever (just as he did not at the time). Beet soup was the only weapon available.

    So glad you’re enjoying volume three! 🙂

    I have a whole blog post about the cacica that I should write, about why I even dealt with that entire plot thread as extensively as I did.

  27. I just discovered this series about five days ago after a recommendation off of Goodreads and I haven’t been happier with a series in a long time. I will say I am beyond pleased that I found these books after the trilogy was complete otherwise I would be bald waiting for the last book to come. And as always with a fantastic story you never want it to end. The conclusion was wonderful but I want more and I don’t really care that I sound like a petulant toddler throwing a tantrum. I want to know where Bee goes and what type of children Vai and Cat raise together. I want to know if Rory is ever tamed by some Deathlands woman. I want to know and I want to know NOW, NOW, NOW! Yep petulant toddler, so sorry about that but I do hope you revisit this world it was so wonderfully constructed. Now I will have to go and peruse those other series that I see are available as ebooks so that I may be amused while you rush off to answer my petty demands. Thank you for giving me a reason to cart my Nook around with me everywhere for the last week in the hopes of having a spare moment to rush back to your wonderful characters!

  28. Haha! This is an awesome comment. I would have considered you tearing out your hair as a huge compliment. 🙂

    Thank you so much.

    I do hope to write some additional short stories in the Spiritwalker universe that will address some of your questions; I have the openings of some stories written. At the moment I have two major novel projects underway so I haven’t had time to complete those stories yet.

    However in about two weeks a chapbook called “The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal” will be available (distributed by Crab Tank Ink). I have several posts about it on this blog, but quickly: It is an illustrated short story (words by me, illustrations by Julie Dillon) “as written by” Bee. The illustrations are fabulous.

  29. I’d like to see a story of a pregnant Bee in the Taino court with Vai’s patterned shirt!

  30. I think what I liked best about the ending was the last sentence and the fact that we found out why the books were in first person – that nasty silly doorknob demanded a story. Convenient way to avoid a dressing down!

  31. What surprised me about the beet soup was that she didn’t get a dressing down for it. I’d assumed she would, at least in private, but instead the mansa calmly explained from his perspective why Vai suffered so.

  32. I saved Cold Steel after finishing Cold Fire for a good month because I wanted to read it when I had the time to enjoy it. I also didn’t read through it very fast. It took me oh, about 5 weeks. I took that long because it was so good.

    I bought Jaran when it first came out. Then each of the sequels. I’m a hoarder. I hoard books I haven’t read. Never fear. Jaran will be read in short order. Or, then again, maybe it will take five weeks per book, because I want to savor the experience.

    I agree with Cat B. who wants more right now!

    Just as an aside: I often pick up postcards and then use them for bookmarks. Just before I started Cold Magic in late July, I had bought a printed postcard of a colored pencil drawing of a lynx. It is called “stalking lynx”. This is the postcard I used for a bookmark for all three books. At the time, I didn’t know the main character’s nickname was Cat. But I thought it was a very appropriate bookmark. And it will always remind me of these books.

  33. Every older man there understood what she did and her right to do it (to protect her husband’s reputation).

    Many of the socially gendered roles are traditional in the mage houses (women cook, for example) but women also have authority because they can also be mages. So while it is a patriarchal culture (the mansa is always a man, for example) it is not oppressive in the sense of, say, fundamentalist attitudes toward women being spiritually inferior. In that sense, a woman can act on behalf of her own reputation and also for the reputations of her father, brother, husband, and children.

    When the mansa tells Vai that Cat speaks up without being given permission it isn’t really about her being a woman, it is about her being lower status.

    So when the nephew makes what are really inexcusable statements at the dinner table, Cat’s actions are tacitly approved by the older men and this is shown by the fact that she is never taken to task for it. The nephew violated not only dinner table custom but he also attacked someone who is now, technically, higher rank than him.

    So all the mansa really felt obliged to do was explain why something like that had happened in the first place. He felt his nephew had earned the humiliation.

    Or at least, that is what my thinking was as I wrote the passage! 🙂

  34. I had to look up some photos of a stalking lynx! They’re beautiful.

    Thank you for your kind words about Cold Steel. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it, and I was thrilled to see your comment in the thread above where you mention the final line and how it explains why the book is in first person! That’s exactly it.

    I do hope to write short stories set in the Spiritwalker universe (I have some partially written but have had to set them aside for the time being due to deadlines on other projects). Andevai and Cat and Bee do return to Expedition at one point so certainly her sketch could come true . . .

  35. I just finished listening to the audiobooks of your Spirit Walker trilogy twice, back to back, nothing in between and am ready to have a tantrum like Cat B. I want to know what happens next with everyone! I may have to start listening at the beginning again. The audio books are just wonderful! Charlotte Parry does such a good job giving your characters voices.

  36. Oh wow thanks for the report! I haven’t heard the audiobooks so I’m SO PLEASED that Parry does a good job.

    I’ll mention here that on Valentine’s Day I’ll be posted a “thank you” “love letter” to my readers — a coda novelette written from the point of view of Andevai that takes place right after they have reached Noviomagus.

    You can also read “The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal” — an illustrated short story (with fabulous illustrations by Julie Dillon) that also is a kind of coda to the main trilogy: http://www.kateelliott.com/wordpress/?p=1521

  37. I am not finished with Cold Steel just yet. I just hit the halfway mark (Bee making a dragon spit Cat out!), but I did want to say that I found a conversation between the Mansa of Four Moons House and Cat earlier in the book very, very interesting.

    Cat makes a point stating that had history fallen another way, the Mansa and “his people” may well have found himself just as “lowly” as the people he enslaves and binds.

    The reason this stuck out to me was because the entire Spiritwalker world is our own Earth cast in a different light, a world where history fell in an entirely different way. And it’s true that had history fallen in the Spiritwalker world as it did in our own, the Mansa – as a man from African heritage – would indeed have found his people unfortunately and cruelly bound the way he thinks is so impossible for a man like him.

    I’m not sure if it was even your intention, but I saw the scene as her drawing an unwitting comparison between history in the Spiritwalker world and history in our own, and it definitely gave me pause, (in a good way!) thinking of how different our world could be right now, and how different theirs could be too – if history had “fallen another way.”

  38. Thank you. That in fact was exactly my intention both with that conversation and with the alternate history of the Spiritwalker universe in general. Close to the end of the book there is another passing reference to the same theme (you’ll notice it when you get there).

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