Picture an ice castle. Now picture a giant army trying to conquer the ice castle. Sounds like Thor trying to destroy the Ice Giants, doesn’t it?
Stuart Hill’s “The Cry of the Icemark,” a young adult high-fantasy, follows the tale of Thirrin Lindenshield, a 13- year-old princess of the Icemark combatting just that sort of event.
When the giant country below her decides they want to conquer the tiny ice-ridden country, her father decides to fight rather than yield and ends up dying. The country now rests in the hands of Thirrin, who can either give up or lead them to victory.
As a Lindenshield, yielding is never an option.
While Thirrin has the potential to be queen of everything she’s ever set her eyes on, it takes quite a leap of imagination to get used to the idea of a 13-year-old girl leading an army consisting of men, werewolves, vampires and talking snow-cats. If that leap of imagination can be made, the book turns out pretty well — full of battles and scheming and everything I love in a high fantasy. It’s got wacky and interesting characters and some great world-building that leaves you wanting to live in the Icemark — giant winters and all.
Other issues that make the book worth putting down, besides Thirrin’s young age, include the narrative style. You know the old phrase, “Show, don’t tell?” Well, “The Cry of the Icemark” doesn’t just tell you things: it screams and demands that you remember, notice and rattle them off as you fall asleep.
Then there’s Thirrin herself. While the rest of the characters have personalities, Hill is so busy trying to write the perfect princess that the character loses any interesting parts of her personality.
The world and the war make the story worth attempting to read, but there’s going to be pauses and stops and the occasional frustrated head-to-desk contact. At the end of the day, it might all be worth it — but that depends on how much you love high fantasy.