ICEFALL astounded me, transported me, gripped me and humbled me. As a writer, I was awed by Matthew Kirby’s art, and as a reader, I fell headlong into his world and hardly managed to come up for air. Set in the ancient Norse world, the king’s three children have been sent with a band of trusted warriors to an ancient fortress, there to remain in safe hiding while the king is at war. The narrator, Solveig, is the middle child, not beautiful and graceful like her elder sister Asa, and not politically important like her younger brother the Crown Prince. She feels caught, frozen as the sea, trapped by winter’s chill. The winter, however, instead of merely being long and dull, turns into a waiting game, as it becomes clear there is a traitor among the company. Solveig looks around her, and wonders when she will know the traitor’s identity at last. "And how I fear that day, for I know that when I look into my betrayer's face, I will see someone I thought I knew. And I will still love them."
ICEFALL is part mystery, part coming of age story – and is probably, strictly speaking, historical fiction. There is a hint of fantasy, but that merely stems from the beliefs of the characters in their gods and demons. It plunges the reader into the same state of mind as the characters. We oh-so-rational 21st century readers know there is no malevolence in weather, but it is hard to remember that when, like Solveig, we fear the icefall.
ICEFALL makes me wish I were more stinting with my praise of other books, so you could tell the difference between a book I found jolly good and enjoyable, and a book I want you (yes YOU!) to read right this very second. Now. Go! Be off and find a copy and then make your friends read it.
Believable, sympathetic heroine