“ICEFALL,” by Matthew J. Kirby, Scholastic, Oct. 1, 2011, $17.99 (ages 9-12)
Solveig is a princess, the daughter of a Viking king. As such, she is privileged more than others, but not more than her brother, Harald, the crown prince or their older sister, Asa. Plain in looks and quiet in demeanor, Solveig is underappreciated. She’s expendable and she knows it.
When their father goes to war, the children are sent away for safekeeping. Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig and her siblings are forced to live with a few servants and an army of restless warriors. Together, they must wait out the winter until the ice thaws and creates an opening through which a ship can travel.
Living in such tight quarters leaves everyone on edge, restless and cautious of each other. It turns out that caution is warranted, there’s a traitor trapped with them, and if they’re not careful, his actions will turn everyone against one another.
“Icefall” has a broad appeal, crossing age and sex barriers alike. Author Matthew J. Kirby never writes down to his audience. There’s a sophistication to his writing that asks the reader to become an active participant, growing and changing along with the story.
Like Matthew’s previous book, “The Clockwork Three,” “Icefall” is a conglomeration of a lot of styles. It’s part mythology, part mystery, part adventure and part fairy tale. And what’s so exciting is that all of those parts, or genres, really do work together.
The diversity of Matthew’s plots set him apart from other writers. Told from Solveig’s point of view, “Icefall” is light years apart in subject matter from “The Clockwork Three.” Both books are interesting and quickly captivate their readers.
It’s clear Matthew intimately knows the worlds he creates. His storytelling abilities have evolved just like Solveig’s. His prose is tighter and more refined, and his characters are well thought out and multidimensional. It never feels like a character is thrown in to make the story work, rather the story works because certain characters are there.
“Icefall” is a joy to read and that’s because of the care Matthew put into it. His research of Norse mythology and its incorporation into this tale really make “Icefall” something special. It’s one of the best middle-reader books of the year.
Learn more about “Icefall” in Matthew’s interview with Cracking the Cover.
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