The Ice Is Coming Hardcover – September 1, 1977
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Wirrun is a young man in Australia, an Aborigine with one foot in the white man's world. When ancient forces of ice awaken & threat the land of his ancestors, he's chosen to find & rouse the Eldest Nargun, an Aboriginal fire spirit, to restore the balance. On the surface, it seems a traditional coming-of-age fantasy story, done up in somewhat more unusual trappings.
But Wrightson doesn't settle for a rehash of the familiar. She develops the story slowly, letting us get a feel for the Aboriginal worldview, so very different than our Western preconceptions. There's far more characterization & exploration of culture here than lurid special effects duels or cardboard cutouts hacking at each other with generic swords. It's much more than a simplistic good guys vs. bad guys story!
Wirrun's journey is fraught with unexpected dangers, touched with surprising humor at times, and filled with the delights of a completely different mythology & outlook. You sense that Wrightson isn't just using the Aboriginal background as exotic set dressing, but hopes that the reader will come to understand & value an older way of life & experiencing the world. And I think she succeeds very well.
This novel is complete in itself, with a definite ending. But if you enjoy it, you'll want to seek out her two sequels to it, "The Dark Bright Water" & "Journey Behind the Wind." Both develop & deepen the character of Wirrun & his relationship to his ancestral world, rather than simply rewriting the first novel. Most highly recommended!