Chris's Review

A Cavern Of Black Ice is a masterpiece of storytelling, which begins the author's latest trilogy, Sword of Shadows. That this is only the beginning of the story is remarkable, considering the epic scope of this first volume. From the first page, the book transports the reader to a world of great beauty, and even greater danger. While set in the same world as The Book Of Words, the portion of the Known Lands we find in this book is a harsh, demanding environment of ice and snow. This is a land where society exists, not so much as a way to maintain order, but as an essential ingredient to one's survival. If you are the type of reader who immerses himself or herself in a book, then be sure to wear warm clothing and turn up the heat while reading this one, or you will be feeling the frostbite on your fingers and toes.

Of course, the most important aspect of any story is the characters which drive it. And if you're looking for the standard assortment of fantasy heroes and villains, well, you've come to the wrong place. With this book, the author cements her reputation for creating the most original, fully dimensional characters of anyone writing fantasy. One of these characters is Raif Severance, a member of Clan Blackhail, one of many Clans that together control the northern part of the known lands. Raif finds himself torn between honor and duty, between what he believes is right and what his clan leader demands of him. How Raif handles his dilemma might surprise you. Throughout his internal struggle, we share his doubts over each choice he makes. The world is not made up of black and white, but just different shades of gray, and this is reflected in Raif's character. The plot of the book is so complex, it is virtually impossible to sum up. In keeping with the environment the book is set in, this is a very dark story. Political and social intrigue, the quest for power, and of course, sorcery all have their parts to play. But to me, this first book of Sword Of Shadows is about a journey of self discovery for the two central figures in the book, Raif Severance and Ash March. Ash is a young woman who was orphaned at birth. Taken in by the political and military leader of a town as a baby, Ash grows up knowing very little about her true background, about who she is or where she came from. When she begins having strange dreams, she doesn't realize the dreams are a precursor to her discovering a mysterious power residing inside her, a power which threatens the fabric of creation. Together, she and Raif try to contain this power, while other forces seek use Ash for their own purposes. In the process, they each find learn more about each other and themselves.

Of course, there is much more than this going on, including some tantalizing glimpses of what may come in future installments of the story. There are mysteries galore, the kind that cause you to keep reading well into the early hours of the morning, in the hope that on the next page, perhaps one of the mysteries might be solved. Some of them will, and some will have to wait for the next book. But I must give you one warning; if you are the type of reader who always reads the last page first. DON'T!! The biggest and best surprise, and the answer to one of the earliest mysteries in the book, is contained in the very last word of A Cavern Of Black Ice. Trust me, it is worth the wait.

For me, the truest measure of how much I enjoy a book is how I feel when I finish it. If it was an average book, I just move on to the next one. If it was a good book, I usually have to give myself some time to return from whatever world I was in, before entering another. But the very best books, the ones that earn a permanent spot in my library, I don't want to finish at all. Often I will ration my reading to only a few pages a day just to make the experience last longer. With A Cavern Of Black Ice, if I hadn't had a deadline to write this review, I would be stretching myself to the limit, to try and keep it from ending. Since I did finish it though, I must say, I WANT THE NEXT BOOK NOW!!! I think it will be a while before I can finish shaking the snow out of my hair, and it will be weeks before I can stop checking myself for frostbite. From the first page to the last word(!), this is a spectacular example of storytelling.