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Matthew J. Kirby
ISBN 9780545274241
Scholastic Press, 2011.
5 stars
Keywords: family friendship icefall matthew-kirby mysteries norse-myths storytelling vikings

by Matthew J. Kirby

If your youngsters love Vikings, royal families and intrigue set in an icelocked land, they will lap up this suspenseful tale by Matthew J. Kirby (The Clockwork Three).

The king of a Northern land, having refused to marry off his beautiful eldest daughter and deed some of his holdings to a nearby chieftain, is now at war. He sends Harald, his youngest child and heir to his throne, along with Asa, the eldest daughter, and his middle daughter, Solveig, to a remote land to keep them safe. The king also sends a handpicked group to accompany them. As the novel opens, they await supplies before the winter freezes out any vessel’s passage by water. A ship eventually arrives with the king’s personal guard—20 hearty berserkers wrapped in animal skins, led by Hake, a giant to rival Thor, and the king’s skald (or storyteller), Alric. When someone poisons the berserkers, everyone suddenly becomes a suspect.

Solveig, the only one of the king’s children who feels she has no purpose, narrates the story. At Alric’s urging, she begins to cultivate her gift for weaving a tale, and her narrative truly holds us in her spell. Her recurring nightmare suggests that she may also have the gift of foresight, in addition to her skills as a keen observer and storyteller. Matthew Kirby’s story peels away like layers of an onion. Two-thirds of the way into the book, Solveig reveals a structure to the novel that serves a dual purpose. Every piece of this puzzle, infused with Norse lore, fits together.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

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