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3.58  ·  Rating details ·  650 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Winner of:
The Banff Grand National Prize for Literature
The Writers Guild of Alberta Best First Book Award
The Commonwealth Best First Novel Prize (Caribbean and Canada Region)

At a quarter past three in the afternoon, on August 17, 1898, Doctor Edward Byrne slipped on the ice of Acturus glacier in the Canadian Rockies and slid into a crevasse . . .

Nearly sixty feet.


Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 1st 1996 by Washington Square Press (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  650 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I don't read outdoorsy books. I'm much more of a fantasy/historical fiction kind of girl. That said, I loved Icefields! Loved it! Wharton did an amazing job. It was historical, geological and unsettling.
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
I read this book in grade 10 English Honors (yeah that's right).

I remember the author came to our classroom and we asked him about some of the 'metaphors' our teacher told us about. He told us that they weren't intended to be metaphors. That's when I realized that writers write and readers find the meaning. Especially if you're teaching an Honors class.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canlit
Rating: 3.3 / 5

In the end, there isn't really much substance here. The premise is boring, and all in all this isn't ordinarily a book that I would even look twice at, but, for Canadian Lit, which I'm taking as a mandatory course, I've had to read it.

To its credit, the writing style is tolerable, even though it's written in the post-modernist style, which involves a lot of fragmentation in both the sentences and the narrative; but, honestly, I don't know how the writer could have mad
Mar 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Thomas Wharton was the writer in residence my second year of university and he was such a cool and inspirational guy. I loved Icefields - vivid Canadiana wrapped up in a fantastic story.

Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read this book for a university English course and must say, it was magic. I absolutely loved and so has everyone I recommended it to.
Nov 10, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school, canadian
Alberta at the end of the 19th century. Descriptions of glaciers. Zero plot. Not a terribly engaging read.
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A pleasant surprise. A quiet, thoughtful book that is driven by its mystery. I wish it were longer.
Apr 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I loved having this to read as we journeyed through the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia Icefield. The idea for this book and the plot that resulted are fascinating. Unfortunately, the writing is below par and the changes in characters and time periods is confusing.

I really like to read about an area that I'm visiting, preferably something fictional, as I feel I get the passion of the setting more clearly. I did love that actual historical figures are woven into this story, and it was pretty t
Jason Lesher
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I read Icefields a couple of years ago and can't honestly remember more than a few basic details about the characters and plot. But Wharton's writing perfectly matched the sparse, beautiful setting in the Canadian Rockies to take me to another place. Reading the book was a meditative, spiritual experience.
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
I can see why this book's format isn't for everyone, but Michael Wharton is such a lyrical writer. And I don't care for cold any more than I enjoy heat. Nonetheless, he made me want to visit glaciers.
Peter B
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Canada Reads selection for February 2008. This is the story of Dr. Edward Byrne who falls in a crevice while climbing in the Rockies and who returns years later to find the mythical figure he discovered while hanging upside down and waiting to be rescued. He eventually does find remnants of a seed container which has come through the glacier many years later. This is the subplot of the development of Jasper and one man’s attempts to prevent a development which he sees as being detrimental to the ...more
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put the book down. I would have been in high school when this came out, but maybe because I was in a small mountain town in southern Alberta it wasn't on our curriculum. Snow and ice have been in the media a lot lately with Chasing Ice and Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth series, so in many ways this book was ahead of its time in 1995, but perfectly placed for discussion in 2008 as a Canada Reads selection.

I loved the story lines of all the different characters, full of dreams
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Evidently, this book has been on high school reading lists across Canada. The reviews in Goodreads are mixed - some young readers are transported while most found it hard to connect with the analytical writing style and drifting narrative. I would probably ave been in the second camp in my youth. I am decidedly of the first group now - transported. The location and supporting cast spoke to my heart - even the great British mountaineer, Norman Collie, makes an appearance. A wonderful journey in t ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I can't say that I loved this book or that it was a bad book. It was just ok. I was pulled in from the beginning. It started out strong and very interesting but eventually it became confusing and almost boring. It was difficult for me to keep up with how often the story was jumping and I had to almost force myself to read it. I do want to say though that I felt the ending was perfect. I don't think I would recommend this book to anyone, but I am certainly glad I read it.
Jonah Dunch
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, meditative, compelling. I finished reading this bad boi on a trip to the Rockies. Even though I've been taking these family trips as long as I can remember, I experienced the landscape in a whole new way. A must-read for anyone who feels romantic awe at the high peaks of an otherwise scientific outlook.
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
The story had promise - glaciers, Jasper, history...but it was slow moving and the sole purpose of finishing the book was to find out what happened with something mentioned very early on. And when it finally came up again at the end, it was uneventful, subtle, and disappointing. The story lacked closure.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Classic Canadian setting - the Rocky Mountains during the turn of the century. An odd icy read for the spring, but I read to get an understanding of Jasper before our family trip out west. Apparently this is taught in Canadian high schools so I will do some research now that I’m done, I found it interesting but tough to follow sometimes.
Adriana Bianco
Dec 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
I started this right after finishing Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" and Wharton pales in comparison. Icefields was so boring and I struggled to make it even a third of the way through. It's difficult to follow the story and the story itself is dull.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
As I live in Jasper I was curious about this book. It’s weird, disjointed, and not very good.
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful! Otherworldly descriptions of the incredible glacial terrain. A story enriched by the accuracy of the experience of walking on a glacier.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Better than I remember...
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written.
Erika Livingstone
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and ethereal with brief vignettes. The perfect mix of clarity and mystery. Feels like a myth but remains heartbreakingly human.
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an inspiring journey through glacial landscapes, the development of glaciology and through life. Despite the sub-theme of human destruction of this icy wilderness it is a heartwarming story.
Laura Buechler
Nov 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
Started strong but then got super boring. Did not finish.
Patricia Monger
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was my first encounter with that type of Canadian fiction I mentioned in my review of "Galore", and for me it was the best. The writing is very beautiful
Leigh Collins
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Both the personal stories and the story of the glaciers and ice fields were captivating.
Aug 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
I just gave it a star even though I couldn't finish it.
I was not at all following this book and it wasn't engaging me in the least.
On my second reading of this, I found more of interest in this book. I picked in for my college discussion group, but, unfortunately, there were a lot of absences, and, of the small group that showed up, no one liked it. Very disappointing discussion and class.
Lisa  Shamchuk
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book with excellent characters and a vivid setting - it left me wanting more from the Jasper glacier!
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About Me
I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and I write books for grown-ups and kids. The Shadow of Malabron, the first volume in my trilogy The Perilous Realm, is available now in Canada, the UK, and the US.