I loved this book. It's a well written and interesting story of great quests, of forbidden love, of magic, of medieval Iceland, and of people who don'...moreI loved this book. It's a well written and interesting story of great quests, of forbidden love, of magic, of medieval Iceland, and of people who don't even know how lonely they are until they find each other. I found this enjoyable and easy to read, and the story was entertaining, moving, and satisfying.
Ice Land tells a few intertwining stories from different points of view, all of which eventually end up as one story, taking place in Iceland in AD 1000, when the people and the culture of the land were in the middle of a great change. The heroine and narrator is the Norse g-ddess Freya, who goes on a quest for a magical necklace that she hopes will allow her to save her people and her land from the danger she feels is coming. Fulla is a beautiful young girl whose grandfather is desperate to arrange an advantageous marriage for her, although she longs to marry for love. Dvalin is trying to help his sister--even though doing what she asks of him means a perilous journey to face what he dreads--and trying to find peace and enjoyment in the life he has half chosen and half been forced into. Meanwhile, Mount Hekla in southern Iceland is rumbling...
The alternative points of view did jar me at first, especially because one of them, Freya's, is a first person narration, while the others are the odd combination of third person and present tense. But I quickly got used to it, and it was no problem. The writing is very good and clear and the dialogue is modern and understandable without being so undeniably current that it takes you out of the story. There are interesting and sympathetic characters with depth, good characterization, and realistic and understandable motivations. The setting of the scene is done well; the story truly felt like it took place in the past and I could easily picture the Iceland in which these people lived.
Ice Land is a great and different take on a Norse myth, with much more depth, detail, passion, interest, and humanity than the surviving story (reading it made me get out a book of Norse mythology to compare). It's also a great look at life in medieval Iceland at a time when the old religion and Christianity were facing off, an exciting fantasy adventure story, and a very satisfying love story. (less)
I Loved This Book. "Hard-boiled Regency," as the author styles it in her Note, is my new favorite genre. I actually read this book in one day, for abo...moreI Loved This Book. "Hard-boiled Regency," as the author styles it in her Note, is my new favorite genre. I actually read this book in one day, for about thirteen hours straight (with a couple of breaks of a little under an hour each), because I could not put it down. And I already have the sequel, so I guess tomorrow's shot as well.(less)
The Eight is a thrilling mystery/adventure with smart and capable heroines, fascinating history, intriguing mysteries, exotic locations, startling dis...moreThe Eight is a thrilling mystery/adventure with smart and capable heroines, fascinating history, intriguing mysteries, exotic locations, startling discoveries, math puzzles, codes and ciphers, amusing historical cameos, twists and turns, and what I think is an epic scope. It may not be high art, but it is extremely entertaining and enjoyable. It is without a doubt one of the most entertaining books I've read, and therefore, despite it's flaws, it is highly satisfying. So either I'm not a discerning reader or the entertainment value really is that good. Or both.
This is one of those books that the cliche of being unable to put it down was made for. It took a while, particularly since the narrative switches between two different time periods with two different heroines to get used to, but once I got into the story, I did little else other than read more of it (apart from the several hours I spent telling my boyfriend all about it and, in fact, reading parts of it that I'd bookmarked out loud to him until I literally lost my voice).
As I said, it took me a little while to really appreciate it. As a history buff (or, at least, a lover of historical fiction), I was loving the opening of the story in 1790s France, which is undoubtedly a fascinating setting for a story. This made it very jarring for me to be pulled into a first-person narration (which I thought was grating) in New York City (too unexotic, I thought) in the 1970s (MUCH too recent to be of interest to me...I thought). But when the story went back to the past, I started to be annoyed by how unnatural the dialogue sometimes seemed. Other complaints, which I put in my status updates, included: "Characters are numerous, while characterizations and motivations are somewhat weak. But I'm enjoying it and wish to read it all in one go." and "Interesting story, interesting ideas. Perhaps too many. Writing a bit clunky at times, and unpolished." Neither of these were complete condemnations, which shows they weren't too bothersome. Not having read any later books by this author, I'm hoping the less than excellent prose was due to this being her first book. Also, compared to other writing that I've thought wasn't great, Katherine Neville is way above: she's not simplistic, and she definitely has a style--it's just unpolished.
Finally I found myself in such thrall to this book that I never put it down if I could help it. I wanted to read it in one sitting just so that I wouldn't have to wait to find out what happened. It took me four days, and if I hadn't talked to my boyfriend it would have been three.
This book made me excited to learn more about its themes, locations, characters, ideas. I'd been looking forward to reading this for so long that I had very high hopes for it, but after reading some reviews on goodreads had somewhat low expectations. Suffice it to say, my hopes were met, my expectations were exceeded, and now I want to go read the sequel that came out last year.(less)
This book is mainly historical fiction--about life in the medieval world and about the changes and outright reforms that King Henry II of England inst...moreThis book is mainly historical fiction--about life in the medieval world and about the changes and outright reforms that King Henry II of England instituted in the 1200s--with only the teeniest possible bit of fantasy thrown in to get three modern teenagers sent back to the thirteenth century. They each end up in very different situations which teach them something about themselves and the world, one an impoverished peasant, one a wealthy knight, and one a young lady struggling to have some control over her own future, but eventually they find each other again and try to figure out how to get back to their own time.
As readers we learn along with these characters about the difficulties of life in the thirteenth century, and we learn it in some fascinating detail. We see daily life and society in a poor farming village, a royal court, the Jewish quarter of Cambridge, and an abbey, we see medieval warfare, we see the workings of the judicial assizes that Henry II created.
This book has many themes that will continue to show up in the author's future books under the name Ariana Franklin, such as medieval Cambridge, the hostility towards the Jews, and most notably, Henry II. He actually has a larger role in this book than in her later books, as the three protagonists get to know and admire him.
The writing is excellent, the story is interesting and touching, the characters are real, well-rounded and sympathetic, and the historical backdrop is detailed. I dearly wish this book would be reprinted, because there's only one copy in any library in the Bay Area, and used copies online cost a bundle. Her new books are so popular that I'm sure reprints of her older ones would do well. Please, publishers?
A quote that I noted: p. 82 "The main cause of delay was the medieval inability to hurry. De Choisilles...was so perfect a flower of chivalry that he was almost creepy."(less)
The Morning Gift is a great look at life in twelfth-century England. It is the story of the Norman lady Matilda of Risle, who we meet living a life ty...moreThe Morning Gift is a great look at life in twelfth-century England. It is the story of the Norman lady Matilda of Risle, who we meet living a life typical of noblewomen of her day. As England enters a period of war and turmoil, however, she goes through times of joy and ease as well as times of sorrow and strife as her life goes down paths she never could have imagined.
The characters are all very interesting, both alone and, particularly, in their interactions with one another, and they are also very real. The main character, for instance, is not always a very nice person, but she is so believable and her thoughts and feelings so human, that she is a likeable and sympathetic character who can make the reader want to continue the story.
This book shows us daily life in the 1100s, from what clothing nobles wore and what they ate to the chores of peasants and villeins to the technologies and rules of conduct of medieval warfare. It gives us details about life in the courts of King Stephen of England and of the Empress Matilda in Normandy and life in the fens of eastern England. It tells about the political scheming going on among the aspirants for the crown. And it shares with us the story of people trying to survive and perhaps find happiness and purpose for themselves.
Plus, the young Fitzempress, the future Henry II, was brilliant!(less)