This is the first book I completed for BookTubeAThon this month, and I read it in one day. Though, I will say the quality of this book made it easy for me to read quickly. I can say with little reservations that I loved this book, and I am not a massive fantasy fan. But I’ll leave my thoughts for the review. My sister actually owns this book, and she recommended it to me, which is the only reason I read it. Also, I was surprised to discover, this is Stuart Hill’s debut novel.
Synopsis: (taken from the flap of the book since this book is so complex yet simple I don’t want to try to summarize it) “A beautiful princess and an intrepid warrior, Thirrin Freer Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield is only thirteen. But she has been preparing for this moment her whole life. Now she must find a way to protect her tiny kingdom from the most terrible invasion it has ever known. To beat back the cunning general Scipio Bellorum and his conquering army, Thirrin will forge an extraordinary coalition of noble Snow Leopards, ancient Vampires, and ferocious Wolf-folk. She will find unexpected strength in her friendship with a young warlock. And she will rally her allies with her country’s fierce battle cry, ‘Blood! Blast! And Fire!’ ”
This book is pretty much The Hobbit meets Beowulf in the most awesome ways. Let me explain.
Everything about this book is exceptional, and I can find little to criticize is form, writing style, plot, characters, pacing, etc. Though the plot is basically a quest to bring together multiple armies to fight a massive army led by Scipio, I never felt as if the plot was repetitive or boring. When the book killed off a character, I genuinely cried. When Thirrin had a victory, I felt genuine excitement. The characters were not perfect people, but they were good. There were strong themes of good and evil, and virtuous people fighting against unethical people.
Let me break each aspect down a bit more.
There were quite a lot of characters, but never did I feel confused about who was who. Usually, I am bothered when an author gives multiple characters names starting with the same letter because it’s confusing, but this book had multiple characters with names beginning with T (Thirrin, Tharaman, etc.), but I was never confused. Each character stood out clearly both in motivation and personality.
For being a teen book, this novel deals with extremely complex issues, such as loss, strength, violence, loyalty, and intense battle strategy. Hill never left me feeling confused about the rules of the world, the magic within it, or the reasoning of the people. Often times Thirrin would have to deal with very real issues, like discouragement of her troops, her only hopelessness, and other things that a thirteen-year-old, under regular circumstances, should not need to deal with.
There is also a humorous side to this book. Her father Redrought, though a massive warrior, wears fuzzy slippers and loves his little kitten Primplepuss. The fearsome Snow Leopard king Tharaman frequently purrs (just picture a white leopard the size of a horse purring and you’ll get the picture). There is a perfect balance between the humorous side of life and the darker reality.
The one thing I will take issue with was the sudden shift of perspective. It was rare, but once in a while we would be in one character’s head and transition into another’s with no apparent break. This was slightly confusing, but since it happened so rarely it didn’t bother me that much.
I do want to briefly mention history, because this story could be taken start out of history if not for the more supernatural elements. Scipio is surprisingly similar to Julius Caesar and his quest to conquer the known world. Thirrin’s kingdom of Icemark could be compared to northern Europe, as it relies heavily on Norse mythology. The Romans attempted to take all of Europe, but they simply could not hold it (suffering massive setbacks in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest and others) and eventually had to withdraw from the Germanic countries just as the Roman Empire was about to fall. Certainly this book is not historical, but I can definitely see where Hill drew his influence.
Since most of what I have to say will spoil the middle and end of the book, I’ll go to the spoiler section to be safe.
One of the most annoying tropes in YA fiction is killing off the parents. I hate this trope, because it’s a cheap way to get the reader to empathize with the main character without actually doing any work. What I loved about this book is that Redrought, Thirrin’s father, was extremely well developed. I genuinely learned to care for his character in the first hundred pages, so when he went off to battle the attacking army knowing he would die so Thirrin and her people could escape north, I didn’t feel as if his death was a cheap plot tactic.
There is constantly the question throughout the book about whether Thirrin will be able to save her kingdom. At first it is whether she can convince the werewolves, forest folk, vampires, and leopard to join her. And then it is a matter of holding off Scipio until backup arrives. There was never a point where I knew what was going to happen and felt bored.
Thirrin is a brilliant character. While she is strong, she is not perfect. She breaks down into tears a couple times, despite trying to show herself as a strong warrior queen. She is someone I could really get behind, because she was a good person. She cared about her people and yet because of her youth she often did not know what exactly to do.
The ending, of course, was epic! It was left up in the air until the last thirty pages or so whether most of the allies would show up. Because of this, I felt as if I was reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as both had surprisingly similar battle scenes.
I am not a massive fan of fantasy, but I loved this book! It is not only exceptionally written (and a debut novel on top of that) but it also extremely relatable. It is filled with war but also loyalty, uncertainty, and love. It takes its time to demonstrate the depth of the characters, while also featuring an intriguing world.
This is one book I would love to see as a movie, but knowing Hollywood they would probably ruin it anyway. There are also two sequels to this book, which I definitely plan to read!
Have you heard of this book? Read it? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,