Blood! Blast! And Fire! (The Cry of the Icemark)


I’m not a hardcore fantasy reader — I usually balk at unpronounceable names, epic quests and battles, made-up languages, and maps of imaginary lands — although I pick up a fantasy book with all of the elements mentioned above once in a very long while.

Last month, I received a copy of Stuart Hill’s The Cry of the Icemark (thank you Scholastic!), and it isn’t normally my type of book but it came so highly recommended that I bumped it up my TBR. At 400+ pages, it’s not a quick read, but it’s certainly one I enjoyed.

icemarkThe Cry of the Icemark features Thirrin Freer Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield, Wildcat of the North, the thirteen year old warrior queen of a small wintry kingdom known as Icemark.

As the power-hungry Polypontian forces from the South close in on Icemark, Thirrin’s father, King Redrought, perishes in a battle to hold off the invaders and Thirrin is forced into the role of leading her small nation in an epic war.

Massively outnumbered by the Polypontian troops led by the wily general Scipio Bellorum, Thirrin must rally the support of her people (their battle cry is Blood! Blast! And Fire!), and enlist some unlikely allies to keep her beloved Icemark safe.

The book starts off some time before the war, establishing the nuances of the kingdom and Thirrin’s relationships with her father, as well as her tutor Maggiore Totus and the witch’s son Oskan, who both serve as advisers when the throne is passed on to Thirrin.

The Cry of the Icemark reminds me somewhat of His Dark Materials, Eragon, and Lord of the Rings all at the same time — His Dark Materials for the arctic setting and the  characters, and Eragon and LOTR for the epic battles and enlistment of multi-specied allies.

Thirrin and Oskan are much like Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry in His Dark Materials (and the snow leopard Tharaman reminds me of Iorek Byrnison — and Aslan too!). Thirrin, like Lyra, is spunky, headstrong and aggressive, exhibiting a lot of bluster to cover up her emotions. Meanwhile, Oskan, like Will, is often contemplative and calm, which earns Thirrin’s respect but never fails to get her goat. Thirrin and Oskan’s repartees are entertaining and they lightened the pervading atmosphere of war in the story. Like Eragon, Icemark is also a coming of age story, and both Thirrin and Oskan grow throughout the course of the narrative, giving it a bit more meat.

I also enjoyed the presence of various species in this book — the forest spirits (a bit like Ents); the werewolves;  the snow leopards; and the ghosts — vampires, witches, wizards, and all! They made the battles interesting and lent a fair amount of humor to the story, too.

I like that this book is about a war but focuses on spirit rather than combat. The small but steadfast Icemark army (with the help of their strange allies) rallies against the Polypontian troops, much like David against Goliath, and you can’t help but root for them.

Finally, while there are three books in the Icemark Chronicles, I like that the first story (Thirrin’s) is contained within this book, and the succeeding books take place some twenty years later. I certainly look forward to reading the rest of the series, but this book alone was a satisfying read.


My copy: trade paperback

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

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