Monday, November 9, 2009
Review: Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cassie is the daughter of an Arctic researcher and has grown up on an Arctic research station with the knowledge that her mother is dead. However, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie learns the shocking truth: her mother is imprisoned by trolls beyond the end of the world, and she herself is promised to the Polar Bear King in marriage. Cassie agrees to marry the gentle but powerful Bear if he will rescue her mother.
The wedding, which sprang out of necessity, soon blossoms into true companionship and romance. But Cassie makes a terrible mistake that costs her her love. Now, she must draw on all of her Arctic knowledge and courage to make a nearly impossible journey if she wants to save Bear.
Please excuse me if I break from my usual review style for ICE. That is because I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK. It had everything I wanted from a book of its kind: a feisty female protagonist, epic adventures, luscious writing, and the kind of romance that stops hearts and makes you remember why romance exists in the world. It was love at first sight for me and this book, and our love will continue to evolve and endure as long as my memory does not fail me.
From the first page, I was ensnared by Sarah Beth’s writing, which I must describe as “clean and fresh”: it’s like wiping away a dirty window and gazing in wonder out at a beautiful, crystalline winter scene. Sarah Beth wastes no words, and yet manages to describe for readers an unbelievably beautiful and mesmerizing world with simple prose. Her writing style will appeal to fans of fairy tale writing, for its gorgeous, ethereal descriptions, as well as those of realistic fiction, so well grounded in our world it is.
Indeed, the way ICE inhabits a perfect space in between fantasy and reality is one of its unique and strong points. I love that this old Nordic legend is grounded in science: a research station with modern characters and real-time technology. We weave easily in and out of the magic and the real, making this an interesting reading experience. Cassie is feisty and snarky enough to make her a great 21st-century protagonist, and yet she is also courageous and incredibly determined, qualities that connect her with other epic fantasy heroines.
Of all the great parts about ICE, I think I like Cassie the best. You don’t find girls like her very often in literature or real life anymore, girls who will do anything for love, girls who tire of domesticity and want to be useful, girls who don’t want romance to consume their identities, girls who are scared of growing up too fast and making decisions that will affect them permanently. I related to Cassie so well and admired her so much, I think I cried. I loved how she faced problems of things like love vs. self-identity with—let’s admit it—mistakes and awkwardness. For a character of a fantasy novel, Cassie is remarkably relatable and can instantly be your best friend and role model for realistic issues.
And of course, I cannot end this review without talking about the romance between Cassie and Bear. Fans of Beauty and the Beast (especially Robin McKinley’s Beauty) will see strong echoes of that kind of gradual love in ICE. Bear easily won over my heart with just a few lines of dialogue; if you want a nice-guy love interest, well, here he is. Gradual development of attraction and love are hard to come by nowadays, which is one of the reasons why I’m so happy the romance in ICE was done so well. Theirs is a love that grows subtly out of undramatic scenes, and is proven to be eternal by a literal “epic journey.” It is, once again, the result of the perfect blend between fantasy and realism.
ICE is certainly not without some weaknesses, of course. Supporting characters, especially Cassie’s parents, are rather underdeveloped, and super-picky readers may have trouble following the occasionally choppy plot. However, readers looking for an old-fashioned fairy tale would do well to check Sarah Beth Durst’s ICE out. Maybe I read it at the right time for me to fall head-over-heels in love with it—but I think that you’ll be able to appreciate the gorgeous world-building and story, no matter what kind of genre you enjoy best.
Robin McKinley (Beauty)
Malinda Lo (Ash)
Donna Jo Napoli
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - I love the polar bear and the sense of blueness and, well, ice that pervades the cover, closely matching the landscape I imagine this story to be set in. However, the model is a little awkward looking and not as strong as I picture Cassie to be, despite having red hair and green eyes. The paleness of her skin is rather creepy to me.
Simon & Schuster / Oct. 6, 2009 / Hardcover / $16.99
Thanks goes to Sarah Beth for offering me your book for review, and to S&S for sending me copies!! <3