Rating: 4.5 StarsI can't remember ever being so distraught about the ending of a trilogy. I rarely read a series all in one go, but when I do, I enjoy flying through the books instead of drawing out the plot over years and forgetting key elements. With this series, however, I wish I had started it back when Cold Magic had released, if only so that I could hold onto these characters a little longer. I'll definitely need to be making time in the future to re-read this delightful trilogy because it's quite near perfect.Cold Steel is not the mesmerizing perfection of Cold Fire, but it's close. It's not as meandering or slow as Cold Magic, though it does contain some of those elements. For the most part, this book is stunning when it comes to characterization, plot, and romance. One of my favorite aspects of this series, from the beginning itself, has been the world-building. Elliott starts us off in Europa, but then whisks us away to her version of the Americas, and now back in Europe for this installment, we're able to notice the blatant differences between the cultures of the two countries. I find that this is particularly clever as it enables the reader to not only better understand the world Elliott has created, but also to become entrenched within the politics of this country. I've said it from the beginning and it bears repeating - Elliott writes political fantasy with a touch of steampunk. And while the politics are brewing in Cold Magic and come to an even larger forefront in Cold Fire, this is where they finally erupt. Nevertheless, where this series shines is in its characters. I've loved the resolute friendship between Bee and Cat from its nascence and seeing it grow, change, and still hold over time has been a worthwhile journey. What I particularly love about it, though, is that this series doesn't hesitate to bring into its picture more than one strong heroine. Bee finally finds her way in this installment and while Cat and Vai still steal the show, I love how Bee's importance has sustained itself throughout the series. If anything, she is the character of greater value than Cat is, yet the two girls are always on equal standing, whether it be politically, romantically, or in regards to their friendship. It's so rare to see friendships in literature, let alone between two best friends who are girls, without the relationship dissolving into drama, but the one Elliott has crafted is, above all things, meaningful. As always, Cold Steel brings forth my favorite protagonist, Cat. What I especially adore about this series is that Cat is so self-reliant. Although the beginning of this novel suffered a bit, lagging in areas, it managed to still stun me through Cat resourcefulness as she rescues her husband, Andevai. Cold Fire may have seen their love blossom, but in Cold Steel these two manage to make it work through thick-and-thin. Obviously, with their strong personalities, their relationship isn't easy, but the fact that these two trust each other and are willing to listen to one another is what makes it so unique. Moreover, Andevai continues to surprise me as we keep peeling back more and more layers to his personality. Elliott has taken the image of Fitzwilliam Darcy - arrogance and vanity covering a veneer of shyness and vulnerability - and enhanced it even further with Andevai. While Cat and Bee no longer astonish me - I feel as if I know them too well for that - Andevai still manages to make my jaw drop. (Okay, maybe that's because I'm swooning so much...can you blame me, though?(; ) If there are any true flaws with this installment it is that the plot thread concerning the Wild Hunt came up much later than I expected it to in the novel and was resolved rather quickly. Much of this story focuses on looming war and politics, so it made sense that after Cat's valiant rescue of Andevai the plot would cease to include the Spiritworld as much. I just don't think I realized how thoroughly, though, which was a bit of a surprise. For the most part, however, Cold Steel is a thrilling conclusion to this trilogy and will leave no fan disappointed. Furthermore, if you're a fan of fantasy and have yet to pick up this series, I cannot reiterate it enough: you are missing out. Kate Elliott has swiftly shot up to be one of my favorite authors and this series is very easily a favorite as well - one I will be returning to for years to come.