Title: Ice Land
Author: Betsy Tobin
Release Date: August 25, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Ice Land is a novel that is half fantasy and half historical fiction which takes place in Iceland over 1000 years ago. Tobin uses Norse mythology as the basis for her book, re-imagining and reworking these legends as real events from history. Fulla is a young woman who has lived on her uncle's farm since her mother passed away. Her father was killed by a rival farming family, with whom Fulla and her uncle are still having a boundary dispute. Additionally, Fulla's extremely strict uncle wants to dictate whom she marries, without even giving the girl a say in the matter. Fulla wants to please her uncle, but is eager for a taste of freedom, especially after she meets a boy of whom her uncle definitely won't approve.
Freya is a middle-aged woman of renowned beauty, who also happens to be an Aesir. This means she is a god of sorts and has the ability to fly with the help of a cloak she was given when she was young. She has had a life of heartbreak, not being able to find true love and has resigned herself to being alone. She is sent on a quest to find the Brisingamen, a necklace that she is told can save her world from the dangers of a volcano, as well as from the coming of Christianity. She encounters a family of dwarves on her travels, and she will find herself irrevocably changed after their meeting.
Ice Land is a story of growth and change, of letting go and realizing what you should hold dear.
When I first heard about Ice Land, I wasn't sure what to think about it. I don't read a lot of historical fiction/fantasy combination novels, excluding those that concern the King Arthur legend. Still, because of its comparison to Mists of Avalon, a seminal work of historical fiction/fantasy, I decided to go ahead and give Ice Land a try. I'm so glad I did - I thoroughly enjoyed the magical world that Betsy Tobin created in this wonderful work of fiction.
I enjoyed the stories of Freya and Fulla equally, which is surprising. Often in dual narrator situations such as this, the reader finds that they prefer one storyline over the other. I thought they both were engaging women, but the reason I think it really worked was because they are so different. Fulla's story is one of historical fiction. She has problems that the reader can relate to, and she seems much more of this world. Freya, on the other hand, is very celestial. There is a lot of fantasy woven into her story. Her tale seems much more mythic than Fulla's, which makes it especially interesting when the two intersect.
I know next to nothing about the history of Iceland, so this book really appealed to me. I appreciated the depiction of the arrival of Christianity in this remote part of the world and thought the factual historical details were supremely interesting. I really loved the author's note at the back of the book, where Tobin details which parts of the book she made up, what she took from history, and what she got from Norse mythology. It makes the novel incredibly interesting.
I thoroughy enjoyed Ice Land. It's an epic novel in a lot of ways, and the goddess Freya and down-to-earth Fulla are both surprisingly relatable. It's an enjoyable novel to read, and its length makes it such that it isn't an intimidating one to pick up. This is a novel I definitely recommend.