Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Icefall by Matthew Kirby

Solveig is the second daughter of an influential  old Norse war lord/chief.  As the story starts, Solveig and her younger brother and older sister are sent to a secluded lodge at the base of a glacier  as a safety precaution while their father fights the clan of one of the older sister's disgruntled suitors. The children are accompanied by some servants and guards.  Soon after they arrive, more of their father's men join them; the elite berserkers who are their father's most valued fighting men, and their father's bard.  As winter ice seals the water passage to the lodge, it soon becomes apparent that there is a traitor in their midst.  The interaction between the unlikely lodge-mates, each suspecting the other of fowl play, forms the main tension in the story. Solveig, always overshadowed by her more beautiful older sister, and protective of her younger brother, makes friends with both the  bard, and the berserker chief. The relationships between the characters are deliciously complicated.  Solveig wants to trust the other lodgers, but she also fears for her own and her family's safety.  The book is at once and action adventure, a mystery, and a coming of age story. 
I think if I had read the book instead of listening to it, it might have ended up on my starred review list.  Unfortunately, I think the performance of the recorded book dampened my appreciation of the story.  The reader is one of these woman who have a very young sounding voice.  She did a great job interpreting Solveig, the other female characters, and even some of the male characters.  But her performance of the bard character, who ends up being a kind of mentor to Solveig, just didn't work.  He is supposed to be a engaging performer and story teller, but the voice she chose for him made him sound like a whiny prig.  For the first half of the book, I pictured him that way.  Then I began to realize that he was supposed to be charming and persuasive, not ridiculous.  Once I got his character switched in my head, and mentally substituted a different voice for him, the story made a lot more sense. In a nut shell, I recommend the book, but not really the recording.  (325 p)

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