Thursday, January 8, 2015

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

IcefallSolveig, along with her older sister and younger brother, are sent away by their father, the king, to hide from the evil Gunnlaug. Gunnlaug wants to kidnap and marry the beautiful sister, and her brother is the heir to the throne. They are guarded by the king's berzerkers, but these soldiers are frightening. Everyone will be in danger if the fierce animals hidden within them are released; they become crazy, wild killers. Solveig decides to become a skald, or storyteller, and she slowly understands the power of words found in stories and legends. Her stories bring joy to the group, and they bring comfort when the situation worsens. However, when the berzerkers fall ill and start to die, it's clear there's a traitor among them.

This book was a finalist for the 2011 Cybils award in middle grade speculative fiction. I enjoyed the stories told by Solveig and her mentor and the lessons they taught. Some readers may not like the pace of the plot, since the group spends much of it trying to survive the winter. The poisoning of the crew provided tension, and Soleig was upset the only people not affected were her family and friends; one of them was a traitor. The identity of this person was a surprise. In the end, Soleig's bravery and courage were most admirable.

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