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A Cavern of Black Ice (Sword of Shadows) Mass Market Paperback – February 24, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Cavern of Black Ice opens J.V. Jones's Sword of Shadows trilogy. (Her first novel was The Baker's Boy.) The story is set in a land divided among small warring clans of hunters and more sophisticated southern cities whose lords covet the clan territories.

Young clansman Raif has a touch of "old blood" magic that guides his arrows to the heart. Bad times come when a hunting party that includes his father and clan chief is wiped out by a supernaturally aided attack, and Raif's open suspicion of the brutal new leader eventually drives him into exile. Meanwhile, Iss, overlord of Spire Vanis city, keeps a chained-up sorcerer whose powers he channels by revolting means, and has unexplained but shuddersome plans for his "foster daughter" Ash--herself an unwilling focus of dread forces. Raif and Ash find themselves fleeing together through wintry, hostile clanlands, pursued by Iss's vilest henchmen, seeking the dubious goal of the Cavern of Black Ice.

What lifts this tale far above routine quest fantasy is Jones's deft characterization, relentless intensity, and unsparing depiction of pain and slow-healing injury. She has a flair for memorably horrid images. Here a sorcerer gloats over one of his nastier tricks: "A man could not fight when his corneas were snapped from his eyes like badges from a chest."

This hefty volume is over 800 pages long, but the narrative grips hard once it's gained momentum, and the pages turn increasingly fast. Strong meat. Next comes book two, A Fortress of Grey Ice. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The first volume of Jones's (The Barbed Coil, etc.) new trilogy is set in a sub-arctic land so vividly realized that it contributes notably to the book's suspense and emotional impactAeven as it almost overpowers its characters. Ashd March, the adopted daughter of a nobleman; Raif and Dray Sevrance, two accomplished archers; and Angus Lok, a once formidable warrior, are becoming increasingly aware, through alarming signsAa camp of murdered men, a recurring nightmare of ice and blood, an ominous call to armsAof a magical evil coming their way. The destinies of these four, particularly of Ash and Raif, become progressively entwined, even entangled, as the novel lumbers toward its inconclusive ending. Throughout, Jones skillfully mixes bits borrowed from history, folklore, religion (her shamans are particularly well done) and other fantasy works, but her attention to these details and her determination to introduce every element of her trilogy at once slow the pacing and sometimes create more confusion than clarity. Nonetheless, Jones has a real gift for evocative description, and the novel will satisfy most saga lovers. Agent, Russ Galen.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Sword of Shadows (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 765 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy; 1st Printing edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076534551X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765345516
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.4 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Elyon on January 1, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After reading "The Barbed Coil," a truly unmemorable and rather stale tale, I was reluctant to pick up this work, regardless of an advanced reader's copy given to me or the sfsite's recommendation of the book as one of the best works of 1999. Since January of that year the book has been sitting on my shelves gathering dust and in general ignored as I turned to more obvious and predictable sources of reading pleasure. In hindsight, the only benefit I have accrued by this error in judgment is that I will have less time to wait for the next novel, which I dearly hope will soon be released.
As another reviewer has implied, it is difficult to believe this book was ever written by the same author as "The Barbed Coil." Whereas that book was common and at times self-consciously cute (and continues annoyingly here to err in this direction with an occasional use of Scottish brogue and references to "wee lassies"), this work is well above the ordinary or clichéd work that dominates most fantasy fiction, offering a tale that is complex and written with a skill only barely glimpsed in the earlier book. Interweaving plots with the skill of the best epic fantasists, if Ms. Jones is able to maintain the level of writing found here, this work will surely come to equal the recent work of authors such as Katherine Kerr, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan. And the author has created a cold and ice-bound world that is largely original---certainly so in terms of the mythic cosmology surrounding it and the deep, oftentimes grim mysticism with which it is imbued. The mythos surrounding this tale is as broad, complex and detailed as any to be found in fantasy fiction, equaled only contemporaneously by Steven Erikson or Robert Jordan.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By the_smoking_quill on April 23, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
A Cavern of Black Ice is the first part of the story of Raif Severance, a young exiled clansman, and Asharia "Ash" March, the runaway step-daughter of a city's sorcerer-lord. Their stories begin separately but merge into one, as Ash--inside of whom a massive, frightening power is building--must reach the legendary Cavern, the only place where Ash can discharge the power without breaching the world of the damned. The story thus becomes a race against time and the merciless elements of Jones' northern lands.
Jones deserves credit for painting such a _different_ landscape: stark, vivid, and breathtakingly cold. Breath instantly condenses to ice crystals on fur-lined hoods; eyelids freeze shut in the night; and wounds and frostbite . . . it's all very intense, to say the least. Some may find all of this engaging; others may find it an exercise in shock-value. Personally, a bit of each appears to be true.
Jones writes with a brutal power of description, frequently employing creative and graphic similes which sometimes work and sometimes are just too over the top. The book is _very_ long and could have been shortened without much loss, and some parts are confusing and need a bit more explanation of the history and powers involved. (And some are simply designed to bait hooks for the next volume.) The supporting characters and villagers--they, their names and voices never quite find a comfortable niche, falling somewhere between medieval Scots and American hillbillies. Though often described in detail, the main characters themselves are not especially unique (with the exception of Magdalena Crouch, assassin), yet you find yourself caring for the young heroes, alone in the deadly wilderness on their desperate quest.
A solid, graphic, often gripping effort, yet one that demands significant time and attention and seems to require much more reading for an appreciable payoff. Recommended for mature, hard-core fantasy readers.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Denise Ball(deetim@compuserve.com) on April 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I must admit to be a real fan of J.V. Jones, she is a wonderful author who manages to transport you to her worlds with consumate ease. A Cavern of Black Ice is no exception. As an avid reader of fantasy I can honestly say I have never read an initial book in a trilogy that promises, and gives, as much as Cavern does. It is a sweeping plot set in an ice bound land that has you turning the heating up as you read it. Julie's character's are always excellent, they are believable, human and heroic (or of course demonic and vile!). In any of their guises you very soon become caught up in their epic struggle of good and evil with ancient magic. Cavern is a long book and so much the better for it, the pace is just right the plot and characterisation is given time to develop into a deeply woven and spellbinding epic. If you only buy one book this year make sure that its A Cavern of Black Ice, you won't regret it. Just make sure you wrap up real warm while you read or you'll have frostbite before you know it!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ryad "James" on November 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this story, the hero is a dark, brooding,character, with a finely refined sense of honor. I am very muchlooking forward to the next book.... This is an outstanding tale setin a harsh and bitter land. Her use of magic in the story is quiteclever and struck a cord with me for some reason. Imagine a personwith the power to kill anyone or anything? Sure it costs him, buthaving that kind of power, it's has a major effect on his development,and I can't wait to see where the road leads. Also I liked herdivision between simple, flashy tricks and the the true altering ofevents, like moving a fog bank being nearly impossible. The limitsare fairly rigid and I like that because it adds an element ofrealism. I mean why be afraid too much if you know your hero has thepower to crack the earth in half if he or she wants? I picked up thisbook based on my enjoyment of the author's "The Book ofWords" trilogy. Which I highly recommend to anyone who likedthis book. All I end with is I want the next book NOW NOW NOW. :)
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