Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2011 Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Matthew J. Kirby
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-545-27424-1
Hardcover Price: $17.99

A richly imagined tale and well-written book, Icefall is a meaty blend of coming-of-age story, fantasy and mystery. It's the kind of book that makes lifelong readers.

Solveig, the ordinary middle daughter of a Viking King, is flanked by extraordinary siblings. Her sister, Asa, is a great beauty; her brother, Harald, is the brave crown prince.

At the story's start, the children are living in stark exile, surrounded by frozen sea, while their father wages war. Readers feel their cold and hunger and practically see their breath in the air. With the strange but loyal berserkers in the fortress to protect them, they wile their days in quiet anxiety, nervously scanning the horizon for the ships that will bring them home.

Kirby draws his characters sharply; he tells a finely sculpted story. There's a traitor in their tight-knit midst and uncovering him or her is a fraught mission. The poisonous shift in their hearts when they're betrayed by one of their own is palpable.

Solveig is a strong protagonist and her transformation in the book, from uncertain young girl to wise and confident warrior is the story's backbone. Solveig stumbles, and learns. She finds her calling as a storyteller, one who soothes and comforts the warriors with great tales of Norse legend, and Kirby uses this conceit to great effect. The stories told within this story are magnificent.

Solveig overcomes seemingly impossible obstacles and in the end, in the midst of her father's fallen men, it's this youngest daughter's strength that saves them.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2011 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

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