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

151 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Sword of Shadows Series

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Editorial Reviews 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, --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 (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Bookworm on October 29, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What a tremendously delightful and much welcome surprise! Its very easy to get bored with the standard plot lines and two-dimensional characters so often found in the majority of contemporary works of fantasy. Indeed, sometimes one even begins to question whether shelling out hard-earned cash yet again for basicaly the same old drab stories simply dressed up in pretty new book jackets is really worth it. Fortunately, every once in a while it does prove to be worth it -- and sometimes, on even more rare occasions, as with this wonderful new novel by J. V. Jones, it proves to be far more than worth it. Jones paints a world of rich texture and surprising depth. Her characters are psychologically engaging and emotionally captivating. The story is gripping and suspenseful with startling -- though perfectly believable -- plot turns and twists. I've read some of her other work, and while I enjoyed her efforts, this book is by far her most impressive and skillful production. There are only a small handful of fantasy authors whose work has so captured my imagination by its originality and poise that I have been inclined to read them more than once (e.g., J. R. R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, Kate Elliott), but this wonderful story by Jones has most definately been added to the list.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jouni Kotakorpi on December 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
After reading this book I could only wonder why Julie wrote The Barbed Coil. Cavern is from another planet and can't be mentioned in the same sentence with. It.
The book lies strongly on its characters. They feel real and most importantly, are interesting. Sarga Veys, Vaylo Bludd, Marafice Eye, Angus Lok and many others are finely crafted and stand as proof of Julie's writing skills.
However, there are a few exceptions. Mace Blackhail as the plotting clan chief is at times too shallow and simple a character. Ash begins as a good character, but as the book goes on, it's easy to lose interest on her. I hope they get a bit more flesh over their bones in the next books.
The story told in the plot is a bit schizophrenic (you get the meaning). A LOT of it is very good material indeed. The Clans, the political intrigue, characters and most of the other stuff is first-rate, but I found the "Horrible evil will be freed unless..." -style driving force behind our heroes actions to be horribly cliched. It's small part of the book and it didn't detract one single star from my enjoyment. It has potential to evolve a lot during the next books and I hope it does.
Cavern of Black Ice is a great book. It's a sister to the Book of Words trilogy, but an older sister that has more grace and style. Book of Words was a diamond in rough. Cavern is that same diamond with polished edges and a deeper colors. However, it's not a fiver. It came very close, but didn't quite reach it. Very recommended reading to anyone who is into fantasy.
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