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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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Ice Land: A Novel Paperback – August 25, 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tobin's second novel (after Bone House) is set in Iceland, A.D. 1000, just as Christianity is taking a foothold and the volcano Hekla is growing restive. In this slick re-imagining of Norse myth, humans, dwarves, giants and gods differ superficially but suffer life's trials equally and are susceptible to love, loss, violence and even the weather. The central character, Freya, is an Aesir (a god), who is essentially human but for her ability to fly and her address: she notes that her kind occupy the space that men create for something larger than themselves. (In Freya's case, she occupies the tainted realm of love.) Among numerous subplots, Freya's story follows her quest for a powerful gold necklace, the Brisingamen, accompanied by a love-torn human teenager named Fulla. Tobin's rich understanding of the source material, backed up by deft historical touches—beds made of moss and skins, turf-roofed houses, earthenware cups—brings the narrative to life. Though women take center stage, Tobin sketches the thoughts of both male and female characters with skill. With an introspective dwarf, the god Odin and a fearsome band of giants, Tobin has this one aimed squarely at the Mists of Avalon audience, and she hits big. (Aug.)
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Review

"Magic….[this] flight through the seamy side of Scandinavian myth is not as cold as the title might suggest. It's a story of sex, love, blood, and the twilight of the gods, punctuated with hot pools, boiling magma, and volcanic explosions. Very steamy!"
-Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander novels

"A rich, complex, and compelling tale of myth, magic and very human passion. Tobin weaves together legend and history into an epic saga, layering the grandeur of a semi-mythic Iceland with the familiar landscape of the human heart."
-Lauren Willig, author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

"Ice Land had me with its first sentence. I loved the book's journey into long- ago time and the myths of epic, ancient gods. Tobin is a skillful and talented writer."
-Karleen Koen, author of Dark Angels

"A very engrossing read. Told in Betsy Tobin's lyrical voice and set against a backdrop of mythical and natural grandeur, Ice Land is a tale both sensual and violent."
-Kristen Britain, author of the Green Rider series

"[Tobin] hits big… [Her] rich understanding of the source material, backed up by deft historical touches…brings the narrative to life.'
-Publisher's Weekly

"One does not often meet a heroine with the power of flight, but Betsy Tobin's characters are hardly ordinary people. . . Not just a good story, but one of the greatest."
-The Times (UK)

"Tobin captures this world in all its complexity. . . Here is a world where magic and mystery rise from the currents of nature and not in defiance of it. The land itself, and the sea and sky surrounding, engender myth as naturally as the salmon spawns."
-The Independent (UK)

"ICE LAND is a lyrically written epic inspired by the beauty and the history of that island, and the rich world of Norse mythology that infuses it. . . Indeed the novel grafts a modern sensibility on to ancient myth, and is as much a contemplation of love and relationships as an epic adventure. . . Tobin finds female complexity at the heart of Norse mythology."
-Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"The novels of Betsy Tobin are dark and bloody, sensual and mythic. . . In ICE LAND Tobin inhabits this pagan land with passion and intensity."
-The Observer (UK)

"[ICE LAND] pulses with subversion and unexpected passion. . . an elegy not merely to a different age where the gods were perceived as not so distant, but also crucially to a tradition of storytelling; the gathering around a bright fire to hear tales of hardship, magic and love. It is surprising just how resonant they still are."
-Telegraph (UK)

"Tobin's descriptions of the natural relief of Iceland are triumphant."
-Time Out (UK)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452295696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452295698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,414,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. W. Kennedy on June 26, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was ready to like this book since I am a big fan of Icelandic Sagas. It did not disappoint. Betsy Tobin's language is stark and simple, much like the plain, unfancy tone of the Sagas. There are a few missed notes but overall the effect is consistent and well-crafted. All the action takes place in the present tense, shifting to past tense only to refer to events that occurred in the past (duh.) The narrative voice switches from first-person to third-person from chapter to chapter. Each chapter is headed by the name of the character who is the focus of that chapter. Freya (the Norse goddess of love) is the first-person narrator. She is the one actually telling the story. Fulla is a teenage girl just emerging into womanhood. The story bounces back and forth between these two, and then there is a dismal geological interruption by the Norns (the Norse equivalent of the Fates.) These tidbits from the Norns pop up occasionally throughout the book, and in them the narrative voice is that of the Norns; this is the only time when it could be understood that Freya is not narrating. Dvalin the dwarf and Berling his brother are the subjects of a couple of chapters, and Vili the young man gets a chapter of his own later.

The setting is Iceland, around the year 1000 A.D. King Olaf of Norway is trying to annex Iceland (whose people pride themselves on their independence.) Christianity is making inroads and causing friction with the traditions of farmers who have grown up worshiping Thor and Odin. This novel's Iceland is more magical than the Iceland of the Sagas, but more prosaic than the picture one usually gets from Norse mythology. The geography is mysterious; it makes sense and yet at the same time, it doesn't.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"This book is my love letter to Iceland and its people," writes Betsy Tobin in her afterword to _Ice Land_. And so it is. Tobin is at her best when describing the landscape of Iceland:

"The day we met, I had flown deep into the central highlands, seeking a spot where I could be alone. I found it on a high desert plateau, where a hidden spring had forced its way up through the lava shield, forming an oasis. The water was a brilliant cobalt blue. It spread like fingers across the plateau, and all around it lay a bed of thick, luminous green moss."

Tobin's love of Iceland's unusual landscape is clear. Though her prose is spare compared to some, she brings the land's beauties to life in the reader's mind.

Tobin's minimalist style continues throughout _Ice Land_, with mixed results. Sometimes the prose style works with the story, its simplicity emphasizing the raw forces of nature and the rugged lives of the people who live in the shadow of the volcano Hekla. Sometimes the writing works against the story, though, skimming over events that could be interesting to read, and describing settings (especially man-made settings) so thinly that I had trouble visualizing what these places looked like.

What really bogged me down, though, was _Ice Land_'s lack of forward momentum. There's clearly a plot. The goddess Freya is trying to save Iceland from cataclysm by bargaining for the dwarves' necklace Brisingamen, and the mortal girl Fulla is searching for love and a husband. Yet the tension never feels like it's being ratcheted up. The characters wander from place to place, and in each place, have arguments. Their level of anxiety doesn't seem to rise from one incident to the next.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I lived in Iceland in the early 90's, OMG. I remember all the places the book talked about. I remember the history lessons during my language classes, and this book was on the mark. The story was thrilling, characters believable, and the land, Icelandic. I'm recommending this book for my book club next month. This was a well written book. There was good use of language and imagery. The author has a product to be proud of. Some might see this as a “romance” novel, but get over it. It's high adventure. And yes, Iceland is green and Greenland is icy.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is 1000 AD in Iceland. Freya, the goddess of love, goes on a dangerous journey to find a gold necklace that supposedly can alter history. Meanwhile, the country is on the brink of war as a new religion, Christianity, threatens the old ways of the Icelandic people. Tangled amid it is Fulla, a girl who falls in love with someone who her family is determined to tear her apart from. I loved the way that Tobin combined the Norse gods and goddesses with regular Icelandic people (she alternates between Freya and Fulla's narrative, as well as other characters.) This book has a really great plot, and describes the world of Iceland very well. This is a book full of magic and love. It sort of reminded me of The Sea of Trolls, in that it is set in the same general area and time period, where the old faith is colliding with the new.

*You can read all of my reviews at my blog, (...)*
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I find this book to have a great story, to be an excellent read, but to require a bit of perseverance at the start.

This book has been compared to "The Mists Of Avalon". It does not read like "Mists", although it (successfully) pulls off a similar difficult feat; taking a mythology and bringing it into a realistic scenario. The book is set in Iceland around the year 1000. At this time Iceland had seen an influx of Christians, who challenged the existing Norse religions (Odin, Thor, Loki, etc). It would seem easy to write a story incorporating these myths (there are ready made characters), but this author has gone way beyond that. She has turned the myth on it's ear, explaining from a human perspective where these myths may have originated - all in the context of a love story and realistic Iceland norms of the period. It is a great achievement.

But achievement does not mean easy to read, or enjoyable. This book is both. Character development is good, and the reader feels involved in the times, the myths, the characters, and the plot.

The only thing I found difficult is that the story really didn't grab me until about four chapters in. The style used is to write mini-chapters that describe the story of a certain character. It works well, but takes a while to really get the plot worked out in the mind. Once it "clicked" in, I couldn't wait to finish the book.

Summary: For those interested in a different "spin" of the Norse legends, for those interested in ancient Iceland living, and for those who just like a good read: highly recommended.
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