by Matthew J. Kirby
Middle Grade/YA — the Main Character is a teenager, but the story is appropriate for younger readers
Possible content issues: Not much really. A couple animals get killed if you have a sensitive younger reader.
“Never trust a storyteller,” he says. “We’re all of us liars.”
Similar to: How to Train Your Dragon (deals with Vikings) and The Forest of Hands and Teeth (only in the similar sense of isolation)
review by Bronto Incognito
I wish I had some better comp titles for this one. I simply don’t read a lot of court intrigue novels, which at it’s heart is what this one is.
Really didn’t know much about this one going in other than that I could get it free from my library on audiobook and that it had a really interesting cover. What I got was the story of Solveig (pronounced Soul-vig), a teenage daughter of a Viking king who, along with her older sister, younger brother, and a small support/protection staff, have been sent to a small stronghold to protect them while their father wages a war. Winter is coming on and soon the fjord (I LOVE saying that word by the way) will freeze over, trapping them there all winter. Just before it freezes over a band of berserkers–her father’s men–show up with supplies and plans to stay through the winter. With them they bring her father’s skald (pronounced skowld). His storyteller.
Solveig has a prophetic dream (the only really paranormal or magical thing that happens in the whole book) that warns of a traitor in their midst and danger lurking just outside the frozen fjord, waiting for spring to thaw the ice.
Also, has a lot of stories about the Norse gods that I found interesting.
Really I was so surprised with this one. It was much better than my, “Meh. How about this one next?” choosing would have given it credit for. Solveig was interesting, smart, and hard-working. She had to learn to keep reassessing how she saw those around her, and learn that even those you admire can turn out not just to betray you, but to just plain suck. And to learn that even the biggest, toughest of men can be lonely at heart.
Not that it’s a love story. It’s not. Not in the romantic sense of the word anyway. Don’t want to say too much more before the spoiler section, so I’ll just end this part with saying that I really enjoyed this one. Five out of five stars on Goodreads.
Now, onto the spoilers….
Being a writer one of the most interesting things about this one was watching Solveig learn to become a skald. Their role was so important in the days before TV and Internet, when the only way you had to learn about the past or the gods was through someone who could tell it to you. These people are NOT readers or writers of books.
And Solveig has to learn the truth in storytelling. The words you say may not ring true when checked against facts, but if you’re telling them and other people are listening, believing, who’s to say that what you’ve created is any less real than reality.
To quote Dumbledore:
Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?
And now I’m going to get all weepy-eyed about what it is to be a writer so we’ll move on…
The intrigue in this story is well done. When they end up losing half the camp, you KNOW the villain has to be one of the people who didn’t fall sick. But I promise you the culprit in the end will still surprise you, even if you think you have it figured out.
And no, book cheaters, reading the last page will not tell you who did it, so I guess you’re going to have to read it yourself to find out!!
In life, the hardest decisions often have to be made more than once. But each time, it gets easier.
Matthew J. Kirby, —Icefall