It has been a hot minute since I’ve reviewed anything other than indie books for competitions. There have been a ton of things on my backlog, so why not start here?
If you’ve read Mark Lawrence before you’ll probably know what to expect a little bit. His series tend to be tightly plotted trilogies with a single POV. I have to say that’s part of the reason I picked this to start with after a long stint of not reading (I started this review months ago, bear with me). His style makes it very easy to drop into a story. I needed something I could sink into and just enjoy right off the bat without having to have patience and wait to get into it.
The story starts with a girl who is about 16 (who reads much more mature than her age) and she’s contemplating her impending doom. Her tribe lives on the edge of the livable world, even among other ice tribes they are considered extreme. They live so far north in such an extreme cold that they don’t even have sled dogs, they pull their good themselves on sleighs. Their unforgivable environment shaped their culture into an equally unforgivable society. Any attribute an individual may have that will detract from the pack and slow them down, or waste supplies, will be a death sentence. Children deemed to be a burden rather than a potential asset to the tribe are tossed into an ice pit to die.
She’s pretty certain at the next culling she’ll be deemed unworthy and tossed into the pit. She doesn’t have the strength or stamina of the others her age and it won’t be long until it’s figured out. She’s so incredibly mature for her age, which makes sense since hard places breed hard people. At 16 she’s more or less accepted her fate… despite preferring not to die, lol. She also thinks of others and their pain before her own. She’s not thinking so much about her own feelings on her death but is contemplating how her parents will take it since they already lost a child. She was instantly someone I could root for and so I was very quickly sucked into this story. Which, this isn’t a spoiler since it happens straight away, she’s found herself in an ice pit and has to survive the surreal landscape while also battling people who might be bathing in dark/black magic and becoming somewhat demonic under the ice.
At this point Lawrence knows how to skillfully craft a world without shoving it down your throats in info dumps. Fuck yes, I am all about that. The world itself is actually part of what drew me in so hard. I am a fan of cold environments. I’d love to have a cabin in the woods on the side of a mountain where the snow never melts. Literally I’d love it to be winter all year round. So, when a book is set in an ice cave which due to magic also kind of looks like a glow worm cave (at least that’s my head picture) I am super sold. This is also not the first series in this world, but they are on different timelines. This is set many many years after his Red Sister trilogy when the world is nothing but an iceball. That said, it’s not just a rehash of the abilities from the last series, there are new abilities and new world building elements added here which have me queuing up the next audiobook.
All of Lawrence’s books are tightly plotted and move quickly. There really is not a lot of “slow burn” with his books with most of them clocking in under 400 pages. They just don’t spend a lot of time dicking around trying to get to the point, and this is the case here. The plot kicks off straight away, slowing for just a moment to build up characters and world, and then running at an even pace until the end. The dialogue, per usual, was realistic and fluid and one of the better aspects of the book. The banter stayed in the believable realm and didn’t get so overworked I was left feeling like, “no one speaks that way” which is easy to do with bantering characters. There were moments of levity, although sometimes it was darker humor, I found that it really kept the tone up in what could be a more dreary setting.
I think as far as favorite books of Lawrence’s this will tie for first place. I have to admit I still like the characters of Prince of Fools over this book. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with these characters. I am simply a person who enjoys odd couple pairings too much for my own good. And I also have a thing for asshats. I don’t know what it is, but it’s going to be hard to knock off Jalan and Snorri from my favorite duo. But… but, this world I find more fascinating and draws me in more. So overall it’s a tie. I think this would appeal to people who like found families, surreal landscapes, a lot of magic, and single pov stories.
- Plot: 13/15
- Characters: 13/15
- World Building: 14/15
- Writing: 14/15
- Pacing: 14/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Enjoyment: 9/10
Final Score: 90/100