Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review of Ice Will Reveal by Julia Dvorin

Last October, my wife and I went to World Fantasy in Toronto.  One of the things you receive at World Fantasy is a huge bag full of free (in the sense of being included with the membership fee) books.  This year, the books included a number of cards which allowed you to download free e-books.  For the most part, I have yet to read the World Fantasy books, with the exception of Julia Dvorin's Ice Will Reveal.  This is not a coincidence.  Julia Dvorin's novel was the only e-book I downloaded from the World Fantasy book bag, since it was the only one that really grabbed my attention.  And I'm far more likely to read an e-book than a paper book.  It makes sense, really.  I have my smartphone with me at all times, and if I have some free time and nothing better to do, I can browse through my book collection and pick out something to read.  Whereas for paper books, I have to be at home in order to pick out a new book, and I can only carry one or two with me at a time.

Of course, the reason I selected Ice Will Reveal to download is because it was an unabashedly epic fantasy novel, which looked like it would be a fun read.  It was. It's about two orphans, a brother and a sister, named Jarrod and Whisper.  Jarrod is a Temple Guardsman, while Whisper is an apprentice acquirer of rarities.  In this story, that corresponds closer to thief than to adventurer, although her mistress, Mins, is certainly a high-end thief and fence.  Mins lives like minor nobility.

Jarrod is sent with companions to find a breach in the Boundary that holds back the Blight, the dead zone to the north. Jarrod already suspects that part of the reason he is being sent is as a test to see if he is indeed the Foretold, the one whom prophecy says is to repair the Blight.  He's not the only candidate for that position.  Yonenn, a Reaper Priestess, part of an order that worships the goddess in her death aspect, is also a candidate.  The prophecy says that ice will reveal who the Foretold is, so this trip to the edge of the frozen Blight is expected to resolve the prophecy. What they find is not the answer to the prophecy, and not only a breach in the boundary.  Something evil has started to come through.

Meanwhile, Whisper is sent to retrieve an important artifact necessary to repair the breach. Her quest involves significantly more grift and theft than Jarrod's, as the artifact is held by a creepy, but easily seduced, wizard, and it's up to Whisper to relieve him of it.

Things pick up once the two siblings return to the city, having found the breach and the artifact needed to seal it.  It was only a matter of time before Whisper and Jarrod joined forces.  They head out to repair the breach, and are doubly, or perhaps triply, betrayed by their companions, and then they escape and come back. And that's it, which is something of a problem.

While I thought the set up worked well in the novel, it fell short at the resolution.  We don't know whether the breach was repaired, as the one who was supposed to do it ran off with the artifact and disappeared.  We don't know what's going on with the quest to recover the Cauldron, the other artifact that's supposed to heal the Blight entirely, as the one who was supposed to do that also disappeared. We don't even know who the Foretold is for certain, although the clues point to Whisper, who wasn't even one of the candidates. In the end, the quest falls apart and the heroes go home.  Now as this is the first book of a series, I'm willing to cut the author some slack, and assume that these questions will be resolved in the next book. But I would have liked some better resolution, or at least a more satisfying climax, for this novel.

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