Blurb: Far away from her homelands in an untold region of Viking-era Scandinavia, the royal siblings of a Norse king are trapped as the ice freezes over for the winter while their father battles a neighboring kingdom. The middle daughter, Solveig, yearns to find her place in her family, often seen as out of place with her stunning older sister and her younger brother, who will soon become king one day. At the same time, she and her family must uncover a conspiracy of murder and deception while trapped from any outside help from her father or her people. Solveig must learn to trust the people close to her, new to her, and above all else, herself. Norse mythology meets with a lovely story about coming of age in Matthew J. Kirby’s new novel about a girl who must learn how to create her own path in life – if she survives to discover the traitor in her household.
Review: I like to read about things I enjoy. Doesn’t any reader? We all like a story that we can connect with, and sharing our interests and our dreams with a fictional character adds a certain extra touch.
I find that I am super protective of anything relating to Scandinavia, and to save the author from a poor review and myself of some rage, I just avoid the genre. However, when I saw this one at my local library, I was sorely tempted by the description, and by the outstanding cover (I know – deadly road to walk). I caved, and I checked it out, crossing my fingers that Icefall woud not fail to amaze me.
Soveig and her royal siblings struggle to solve a deadly mystery while waiting for winter to release the waters of the fjord and return them back to their kingdom. The plot was a tightly-woven suspenseful journey. However, it was the underlying messages that made this book shine.
Beauty comes from within
Yes, this message has been beat into our heads from the moment any child picks up a book, but Icefall points out HOW and WHY inner beauty is better. Solveig often envies her elder sister, Asa, for her natural Nordic beauty and inherited attraction, but her sister lacks integrity and a strong will. Asa flat out tells Solveig that the beauty of the mind, such as wisdom and courage, will not fade with age like external beauty. Personality qualities remain when youth disappears. The strength of one’s character plays a heavy hand in this tale. Kirby doesn’t shove the notion down your throat. Instead, he sends flowers, sets out a nice dinner, and has a deep heart-to-heart with the audience about the vital qualities of a strong internal peace. Even the qualities of the Berserker men, such as Captain Hake, glorifies that your heart, not your face, is the real meaning of beautiful.
Love and character
Kirby shares a story centered around paternal and protective love instead of strictly relying on romantic love. Yes, I want to see love and passion in the books I read, but it becomes so commonplace that I find that I grow cynical at times. Icefall points out that love is so much more than just a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Love is so much more than heart-throbbing romance and vows to die together. We all need bonds that stand separate from flirtation and sweetheart promises; we need love of fellowship and family.
Icefall incorporates character into the novel as well. Doing what is expected or safe is not always the right thing to do. As Shakespeare states: “To thine own self be true.” The sacrifices and discoveries made by all of the characters in the novel challenges the reader to think about the importance of their own morals, and what they are worth. Is it worth dying by remaining yourself? Is it better to live a lie and survive to see another day? What makes you who you are?
Norse mythology and writing
The Vikings were not just savage humans who ransacked most of modern Europe. The Norse people were also lovers of words and stories, and Kirby just flat out did an outstanding job of using this forgotten tradition. The writing and the similes did not stand out as forced prose and flimsy comparisons. Kirby used a wonderful sense of language and imagery to drive his message home. Stories keep us hopeful and strong. Tales and songs can heal wounds. Solveig and her own journey to become something more than herself played up the idea that it is the audience, the listener, the reader and the dreamer that feed on the words and imagination of the storyteller.
Norse mythology and symbolism, thankfully, were well respected by the author, and he spoke to the reader as if they were already well versed in such knowledge. Side note: if you do not have a fairly basic understanding of Norse mythology, this story might seem a bit confusing.
I would highly recommend this book to all of my Viking lovers. The characters were great, the writing was sophisticated and properly accomplished, and the struggles of a girl looking for her own beauty struck a soft spot for any girl who dreams of beauty and self-worth.