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Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

Icefall is a book about treachery, politics, and survival. Set in a Norse world, Harald, Asa, and Solveig must survive the winter trapped under a giant fjord. The three siblings are part of the royal line, and must stay safe from a war started over Asa’s beauty. Harald, the king’s only son, is heir to the throne. Solveig is the only one with no apparent defining attribute. Servants and soldiers also serve them.
It soon becomes clear that someone wants to make survival difficult. Early on, the group loses their three cows, which limits the availability of food. Other events make it clear that someone is a traitor, but who? No one is above suspicion.
The main character, Solveig, is a person with many nuances. Not pretty, like Asa, or strong, like Harald, Solveig has only her wits and her stories. It soon becomes clear that she has a talent for storytelling, and is the kindest of the three siblings. She trains to become a Skald, a storyteller, but has doubts about herself.
The characters are complex and are not always what they seem. Hake, a berserker soldier, seems to be exactly that: a raging berserker who gives no thought to others. However, he turns out to be kind towards Solveig. Perr, another soldier, is a coward at heart, although he seems to be the kindest and most thoughtful.
The plot is slow-moving, but unpredictable. What starts out as simply living under the fjord for the winter turns into a desperate struggle for survival. Food runs low, not once, but many times. Trapped under the fjord, things begin to go wrong, and many people have ulterior motives. Each chapter is also divided by a simple story from Solveig’s life. These offer glimpses into the past and to each character.
This story isn’t an adventure, as the cover suggests, but is a tale of political intrigue, and of Solveig learning her own capabilities. If you are looking for a contemplative story, or something different than the usual fare, Icefall is the book for you.



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