Frozen: Heart of Dread, Book 1



Dark series start an unusal mix of dystopian and fantasy.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Frozen could launch some great conversations about the future -- and what in this invented dystopian world seems like an actual possibility, if anything. See our "Explore, Discuss, Enjoy" section for some specific questions to ask.

Positive messages

Like many dystopian novels, there are messages in Frozen about fighting against corrupt governments. Also, Nat struggles to understand and accept herself for her difference -- and both she and Wes are willing to make great sacrifices to help others and complete their destinies.

Positive role models

The teen protagonists in Frozen make some questionable choices, but ultimately, they are true heroes who go out of their way to help other people and do the right thing -- and even save what's special about the world.


There's some fairly intense violence in this fantasy adventure. Nat, Wes, and his crew are shot at by military, face sadistic slave traders who starve them and torture other people on their boat (including hanging a small child, nearly to death), and ultimately there's a big battle at sea involving lots of shooting and even a fire-breathing dragon. The peril is nearly constant, but the details are never too drawn out.


The protagonists kiss and spend the night together in the same bed. There's a brief mention of two smallmen being in a relationship together, and a new marriage system that allows couples who want to have sex to apply for one-day marriages; to qualify, they have to pass STD testing. Wes also says his mother was a show girl, but not a "grab-and-grope" girl. 

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Frozen is the first book in the Heart of Dread dystopian fantasy series by Melissa de la Cruz and her husband, Michael Johnston. In addition to some kissing and romance, there's some fairly intense violence: For example, the teen protagonists are shot at by the military, face sadistic slave traders who starve them and torture other people on their boat (including hanging a small child, nearly to death), and there's a big battle at sea involving lots of shooting, smoke, and even a fire-breathing dragon. Ultimately, Nat and Wes are true heroes who go out of their way to help other people, do the right thing, and fight to save what's special about the world.

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What's the story?

Nat and Wes are teens struggling to survive in a frozen world filled with poisoned oceans, a mostly illiterate population, and widespread cancer deaths. Working as a blackjack dealer in New Vegas, Nat must hide the fact that she is \"marked\" -- her bright green eyes and birthmark make her part of a new and feared species of people who can do amazing things like move objects with their minds or weave illusions. (At the start of the book, \"Nat had no idea how to use her power or how to control it\"). She gets to know Wes, a former soldier now working as a mercenary, when she contracts him to take her out of the city; she has a map to a mythical paradise known as the Blue. But to get there, Nat and Wes must draw upon all their strengths -- both human and otherworldly -- and depend on each other to cross the dark water, face slave traders, and keep their controlling government from destroying the Blue.

Is it any good?


FROZEN kicks off a series, and the husband-and-wife co-authors lay on the details pretty thick in describing the inner workings of the chilling future world they've imagined. The book's unusual mix of dystopian and fantasy elements may be the right match for some, but others may find that details about marked people, dragons, and a zombie-like species feel out of sync with the other dark but more realistic details described along the way. (For example, trashbergs fill the ocean, people often speak in text language, and drinking water is a precious -- and expensive -- beverage.)

Even so, Nat and Wes are sympathetic, strong, and heroic characters, and readers are sure to stay engaged as these likable -- if familiar -- protagonists face constant peril to get to the Blue. And the authors certainly leave plenty unresolved to encourage readers to return for the next installment. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about dystopian novels. What ideas in Frozen seem like actual possibilities for our future, and which seem too far-fetched?

  • Do you think reading dystopian books like Frozen can help teens figure out the best way to protect the Earth and people?

  • What do you think writers have to gain from working on a series? What about publishers? Do you plan to read other books in the Heart of Dread series?

Book details

Authors:Melissa de la Cruz, Michael Johnston
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date:September 17, 2013
Number of pages:336
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, Kindle

This review of Frozen: Heart of Dread, Book 1 was written by

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