Book Review: Gilded in Ice

Title: Gilded in Ice

Series: Bastian Dennel PI (Book #2)

Year: 2021

Author: Sarah Pennington

Synopsis: Bastian has two new missing person cases. One is cold. The other is his own sister.

Since his success solving the Midnight Show disappearances, Bastian Dennel is sitting pretty. And with the new high-profile cold case that just got dropped in his lap, he’s pretty sure things will stay that way for a while. But when he finds out his sister has gone missing without a trace, he’s determined to find her and bring whoever’s responsible to justice — even if his only lead is a stray cat with a knack for vanishing unexpectedly.

Kona Dennel’s plans have already been upended, so when the talking cat she’d befriended asked her for help breaking an enchantment, she didn’t see any reason not to say yes. She didn’t expect to be trapped in a frozen mansion or to be drawn into conflict with a mysterious lady of the fair folk. Even the cat is hiding more secrets than she realized. It’ll take a skilled detective to untangle this web . . . but since Bastian isn’t here, Kona will just have to do it herself.

Secrets abound, and the one creature who knows the truth isn’t talking. Can Bastian and Kona outwit a fae who’s been at this for centuries? Or will thawing out the long-frozen truth drop them in over their heads?

A magical mystery reimagining Snow White and Rose Red and East of the Sun, West of the Moon in the jazz-age world of The Midnight Show.

Review: Have you ever started reading a book that you just KNEW you were going to enjoy, and then ended the adventure loving every bit WAY more than you thought you would? I always know I’m in for an amazing read whenever I pick up one of Sarah’s books, but she manages to blow me away every time.

Bastian Dennel thinks his career is finally shaping up. After all, solving the mysterious disappearances around the Midnight Show wasn’t a case just anybody could crack. Even the police are impressed by his accomplishments. And that’s exactly why the latest case to fall into his lap is cold. It’s been months since Mikael Alkinson was last seen, and everybody — including his parents — are giving him up for dead, but his brother believes Bastian may be the answer to finally bringing him home.

But that’s before Bastian’s own sister goes missing, and his life is upended even more. Kona isn’t the type to run away — so there must be something foul at work here. His other sister, Roselle, tags along as his assistant on the case, but even she can sense the magic and mystery of the fair folk around every corner.

Meanwhile, Kona is very much alive and doing everything she possibly can to not go stark raving mad from boredom. Talking to the cat helps, but she’s desperate for the oven to cooperate.

From the very first page, this book was just amazing. After getting to know Bastian through the first book, it was so much fun getting to see a bigger part of his world with his family, with him interacting with his sisters. I loved his big-brother-protective bits. So sweet. His relationship with Dayo hasn’t changed from where the first book left it, and I’ve loved getting to see the slow build-up to maybe something more. There’s no insta-love grossness and senseless romantic relationships over here, folks. *applause*

Kona and Roselle were a lot of fun, too. Both took turns narrating, but each had a distinctive flair and voice so that it was easy to tell one from the other. Kona’s struggles with the oven in particular were VERY relatable for me (though, alas, I must blame a ruined recipe on the baker and not the oven). I thought she accepted the chore of breaking the cat’s enchantment a little fast, but her fight to win the challenge came through very strongly. Roselle didn’t get a lot of “screen time” but I do hope that she returns in a future book! I would love to see more of where her story goes through vet school. *wink, wink*

I’d heard reports of how this book was a mix of Snow White and Rose Red as well as East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and I had no idea how in the world Sarah was going to combine those two fairytales without losing some of the original fairytales’ elements. To be fair, this book (IMHO) leans more toward being a stronger East fairytale than it does being a SWRR fairytale. But all of the elements were blended so well, and it was so cool to see how Sarah pulled out the different pieces to carve a whole new story.

If you’re familiar with the fairytales going into this book, you definitely have a sense of where it is all going. However, even knowing all of that, I found myself often on the edge of my seat, begging them to go faster and KNOW something. I just couldn’t read it fast enough. The mystery was gripping. If I could have read it all in one sitting, I would have. Time was just not my friend on this read.

I’ve only read the first two books in this series (and I truly hope Sarah is planning on writing more than the three currently published), but I could read them both again tomorrow and love them just as much as I did the first time. The world-building is phenomenal, and the jazz-age and fae-encrusted twists just WORK so perfectly. Reading this book was like settling into a familiar, cozy blanket and being delighted in watching the blizzard outside your window. If you couldn’t tell from this review already, I’m highly recommending that you read this book and every other one that Sarah has written. If forced, I might say that I enjoyed this book just a bit more than I did The Midnight Show. *le gasp*

Advisory: Some violence. Characters are trapped in spells, injured/killed, though nothing is graphic, and I think it’s all suitable for a younger audience.

There is some jazz-age influence with characters drinking/dancing/flirting/and the like in bars and speakeasies. One character makes his own alcohol and encourages others to drink it, too. Alcohol is presented in more of a neutral light; everybody drinks it. While I understand the significance of the alcohol in such a story (with both the fae and the jazz influences), I was a little bothered by how much alcohol was there, as well as watching characters I was supposed to root for drink. That is a personal thing, as I know drinking won’t bother many other readers. But I just wanted to throw that out there.

With fae and fair folk, of course, there must be magic. The world Sarah has created here is very much a fantastical world, and all magic is done by magical beings — mainly the fae. In addition to the real world, fae and some humans can walk about in a dream realm. Spells are mentioned, enchanted animals can talk, but none of the magic here bothered me in the least.

And very slight romance. But it’s very sweet and light, and you can’t help but ship these characters HARD. VERY hard. And all I want is to read more and see these relationships blossom into something amazing.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Related Review: The Midnight Show (Bastian Dennel PI, #1)

*Please note that I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Also, I’m very sorry, Sarah, that it took me this long to post this review!*


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