by Catherine Fisher
In a long-ago culture similar to the Norsemen of old Scandinavia, a young woman
named Jessa is banished into the frozen wastes of the north - exiled by a
sorceress-queen and her usurping husband - sent to all but certain doom,
either from cold and hunger or at the hands of the queen's son Kari, rumored
to be a hideous monster.
Surprise! Kari isn't what the stories about him let on. A youth of
otherworldly beauty and power, he joins Jessa, an old warrior named
Brochael, a clever minstrel named Skapti, and the rightful heir to
leadership of her people in a desperate march against the snow witch Gudrun.
The first round goes to Kari, but Gudrun isn't vanquished so easily. In
Books Two and Three of this three-part epic, Kari must face the loneliness
of being suspected by his very friends; the temptation to use his terrible
powers to control and destroy people; and a series of deadly curses whereby Gudrun
seeks to punish the people of the Jarlshold for joining forces with Kari. At
the same time, Gudrun is trying to draw Kari back to herself, so as to force
him to become like her: cold, ruthless, inhuman.
Joined by a brave young ex-slave and a grim, savage stranger who is
sometimes man and sometimes wolf, Kari's party treks north through harsh
conditions and terrifying adventures, all the way to the end of this world
and the beginning of another. It is a strange journey in which the final
jeopardy is over Kari's soul - in which spookiness, terror, weird beauty,
dull throbbing ickiness, and all shades of surprise play as much a role as
friendship, love, hate, and internal conflict. Altogether it is a unique and
compelling book from a Welsh fantasist in whom I place much hope.
Recommended Age: 14+
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