Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig, along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors, anxiously awaits news of her father's victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, and a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another. Those charged with protecting the king's children are all suspect, and the siblings must choose their allies wisely. But who can be trusted so far from their father's watchful eye? Can Solveig and her siblings survive the long winter months and expose the traitor before he succeeds in destroying a kingdom? (Goodreads)
Reviewed by Pica, avid bookworm
Icefall was surprisingly good, although I don't see why it was a surprise. Kirby's debut novel, The Clockwork Three, was excellent, and in many ways, I enjoyed Icefall even more. Opening the first few pages, I was a little apprehensive, but I needn't have worried.
The first thing that should be noted is the wonderful historical context and incorporation of the culture, myths, and history of the Nordic culture central to the story. It's always a treat to read about a culture so steeped in myths and traditions. From the forbidding mountains and glaciers surrounding Solveig and her family to the actions and mindsets of the characters down to the smallest details of their lifestyle were perfectly in tune with the time and created a wonderful picture all together.
As wonderful as the setting was, Kirby's characters seemed to leap off the pages, and they were the real strength of the story. I felt as if I knew personally each of the characters, and was surprised to find out I didn't know some at all. All of the characters were so full and fleshed out, and they each seemed like real people. Even when the traitor was revealed, I couldn't dislike them - I almost wanted to keep rooting for them.
Not only was the plot wonderful, with a great mystery, Solveig's journey was delightful to read about. From the little girl unsure of who she is and where she belongs, she transforms into a wonderfully strong protagonist making her way in the world. Especially poignant to me was the scene toward the end of the book where she must hide her identity and she chooses, rather than to hide in a new name, to reveal both her true identity and her true strength.
Kirby weaves his story with so many layers that even days later I was still realizing new things about the story. There are so many things I could mention: the discussion about the power of stories, about identity, about community, about loyalty, all wrapped into a wonderful, historical mystery and coming-of-age story. As soon as I finished, I was ready to leap back in again. The entire book felt almost magical, although no magic was happening between the pages. This is a book rich for discussion, recommendation, and many, many rereads.
The more I reflect on it, the more I think Icefall will take its place among my favorite books. Highly recommended.
Market: Middle Grade,
Mature Themes: war, betrayal, death, coming-of-age