From School Library Journal
Grade 5-9–Snow-walkers drift across great plates of ice, through sleet and snow, in the farthest north, where nothing else lives. When these terrible beings come into contact with humans, they can freeze people with a touch or enmesh them in dreams and steal their souls. The story of a protracted conflict between the Snow-walker witch, Gudrun, and her half-human son Kari, her mirror image, is told mostly from the point of view of Jessa, the daughter of a dispossessed nobleman. With her two knives and equally sharp wits, she makes a satisfying heroine, the only female in a group of companions who resist Gudrun's efforts to conquer their realm and draw Kari under her spell. Their adventures, steeped in Norse mythology and Old English epic poetry, unfold in three books, published separately in England and bound together in this edition. The middle tale, "The Empty Hand," with its monster created by Gudrun's spells, recalls Beowulf
. Fisher is a skillful storyteller, using clear language and plenty of action to keep the plot moving. She is at her artistic best when she evokes the northern landscape, with its green pastures, vast haunted forests, and icy reaches where the northern lights glow. Her characters are painted with broad strokes, their conflicts and relationships simple and direct. However, patching together the three titles into one continuous narrative leaves some rough spots. A character from the first book is dropped without explanation, and the second book offers unnecessary retelling of previous events. Still, fantasy readers will happily follow the adventures of Jessa, Kari, and their brave companions.–Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
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Gr. 6-9. Drawing on Celtic and Norse mythology (chapter headings are taken from Beowulf
and Norse poems), Fisher spins a fantasy quest with all the classic elements. Long ago, the evil sorceress Gudrun the Snow-walker banished her powerful son, Kari, to a distant castle, then seized control of the Jarl's people. Now, the Jarl's subjects Jessa and Thorkil seek to restore the kingdom to its rightful ruler. Gudrun exiles them to Thrasirshall, where Kari is imprisoned. Clever Jessa, Kari, and a small band of friends, including writer-storyteller Skapti, set off on a hero's journey to the far north for a showdown between the wicked ruler and her son. Originally published in Britain as three separate books, this newly melded story suffers from occasionally awkward pacing and narrative shifts that will demand a dedicated, sophisticated reader. In addition, the bard Skapti, who rarely tells any stories, could have been used more effectively to share the unfamiliar mythology. It's the description of the icy backdrop and the mythological beings in the cast, most notably the predatory rune creature, that reveals the beauty of Fisher's prose. For larger fantasy collections. Cindy DobrezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved