Review: Ice Land

TITLE: Ice Land
AUTHOR: Betsy Tobin
PUBLICATION: 2008 by Plume
FORMAT: Paperback

BOOK SYNOPSIS

Iceland, AD 1000
Freya knows that her people are doomed. Warned by the Fates of an impending disaster, she must embark on a journey to find a magnificent gold necklace, one said to possess the power to alter the course of history. But even as Freya travels deep into the mountains of Iceland, the country is on the brink of war. The new world order of Christianity is threatening the old ways of Iceland’s people, and tangled amidst it all are two star-crossed lovers whose destiny draws them together-even as their families are determined to tear them apart.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .

I seem to have traded my obsessive reading of Greek mythology for the Norse pantheon. I discovered this book while looking for someplace to talk about Runemarks. It wasn’t very long compared to other books I’ve put on my wish-list from the library so I figured that I would give it a try. I thought that something from Freya’s perspective might be interesting.

This novel is an easy pace to read and even at 350 pages it doesn’t really seem to take that long to read. Tobin has written a tale where the gods walk and even live among the mortals, which I confess was one of the reasons that I wanted to read this book. She didn’t seem to want to revision many of the myths, just the ones dealing with the characters she was concerned in this particular tale. I could see how this book might appeal to the older teen audience.

I was under the impression that this entire book would be told from Freya’s point of view, but this was not the case. A portion of it was through her eyes, the only first person narrative in this novel, yet it only totals for about a third of the entire book. Another portion follows Fulla, the young woman who falls in love with the son of the man that murdered her father. A second third person point of view involes Dvalin the dwarf-man. It alternates between the three. A few chapters do follow what happens with other characters. Although I think I may have enjoyed it a bit better on this part if it had just been Freya and Fulla alternating the narrative between them.

I wanted to like this book better than I did. It started out promising, but I quickly lost interest in all of it except for the forbidden romance between Fulla and Vili. I usually don’t like forbidden romances because they just don’t appeal to me, but that’s the only thing I looked forward to reading after awhile. Not that it was particularly good. The other characters didn’t really intrigue me, even Freya herself. When it came to payment for the gold necklace, Freya explains that the Vanir are a practical people. Does that make her any less a whore by trading her body to the dwarves in exchange for the necklace? It didn’t endear me to her in the original myth and Tobin’s take on it fails as well. And I couldn’t help thinking about Idun’s golden apples. Who keeps them now if she is no longer in Asgard? But since in this retelling of the Aesir, the gods live on the earth alongside humans and not the realm apart as Freya informs the reader, such things no longer apply. It is a tradition that the Norse gods are not immortal, so perhaps it is fitting that they live alongside humans.

It almost seemed to me that Tobin is trying to destroy the beliefs held about the gods while elevating Freya to be a sympathetic character to point out all their lies and deceit, but I must admit that it wasn’t working so well for me. I really wanted to like this more, but ultimately I cannot claim to. The characters and the overall story itself just wasn’t grabbing me despite an interesting premise.

MY RATING

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