The Cry Of The Icemark by Stuart Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Cry of the Icemark was a stirring military fantasy adventure. The author really took the time to bring the cultures of this novel to life. I could see that Icemark people seemed to be modelled after the Scandinavians, while Thyrrin's mother's peoples, the Hypollitan must have been based on the Amazons. And the Polipontans seemed to be like the Roman Empire. The battle scenes were fantastic--thrilling and very well-written. I got the impression that Mr. Hill took these elements very seriously and worked hard to get this part right and make it feel realistic. And I appreciated that, and I am sure that his younger readers probably do as well. Although not excessively gory, I felt all the inherent threat and bloody nature of battle. The element of loss is very evident in this story, and I definitely could appreciate the horrible odds that Thyrrin's people faced with an enormous invading force pitted against their smaller country. However, the Icemark people quickly proved that they wouldn't easily be conquered. Along with their fierce nature, there were elements of their rich sense of family and tradition, many aspects that would have been destroyed or wiped away by the Polipontans, who cared nothing for other cultures, only the assimilation of their lands and raw resources.
Thyrrin is a young heroine that I just loved. She was born to be a queen, and she showed a multi-facetedness to her character that brought her to vivid life. She's very strong and the kind of leader you want to have when you are facing a mammoth invading force who wants to wipe your people off the face of the earth. On the other hand, it's clear that she is very young and still learning a lot about leadership, courage, and humanity. I really wanted to give her a hug for all that she dealt with in this novel. I loved her friend, Oskan, Witch's Son too. He had a mystique, and a wisdom that was much greater than his young years. I also loved his wry sense of humor and the fact that he never took himself too importantly, despite his incredible latent power. He was a good companion to Thyrrin, able to deal with her sometimes hot-headed arrogance, and to soothe her very recognizable fears with the voice of reason and comfort when she seemed like she couldn't handle one more burden. In fact, most of the characters were well-drawn and excellently narrated by Heather O'Neill. This book really got me sucked in. I found myself cheering for Thyrrin and her warriors (the Hypollitan warrior woman were freaking awesome), and hating General Scipio Bellaron. I loved the werewolves and the snow leopards, both groups having a ton of personality. The vampires were nicely creepy, and the wood folk (like the Green men and nature spirits of Celtic/Norse mythology) added a sense of majestic awe to this story. This book would have great as just a straight military historical fantasy, but the supernatural elements elevated to an even more interesting level.
There was so much to like about this story. It really got me revved up. I was excited to listen to it, and sad but satisfied when it ended. It was definitely a five star listen for this reader. I look forward to the reading the other books in this series. Recommended!
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