I was absolutely thrilled when I found out that J.V. Jones had picked me to be one of the twelve lucky people to receive an advanced copy of her new book A Cavern of Black Ice. I had recently finished reading her Book of Words trilogy, which I had greatly enjoyed, and I was hoping to be as impressed with her latest book as I was with the first trilogy.
I needn't have worried; the book is easily as good as I had hoped it would be. The characters are, as ever, well portrayed, they gain our sympathies and interest from the outset. The number of characters is quite immense, however because of the length of the book [736 pages] there is no problem with sorting them or the various clans out. The story flows extremely well with many extremely memorable scenes. I think my favourite is where the brothers cut themselves on the clean blades of their slain clan thus enabling the men to have honourable deaths. But then again there's the one where you realise Penthero Iss' intentions for Ash? Or the attack on the Bludd party? I just can't decide.
The book is extremely well paced. J.V. Jones is a master storyteller, knowing full well when to pile on the pressure and when to ease up. She also knows when to drop in the odd thought or comment by a character which will reveal a plot thread, and then leave you dangling and desperate to know more at the end of a chapter. How many times have I thought I'd read to the end of a chapter only to find that I've just got to keep going to find out what's going to happen? Personally I just love that!
The plot, for the first part of a trilogy, actually holds together extremely well. Without wanting to give anything away the main story line is well thought out and well handled. It has a beginning, middle and an end, that might sound rather obvious but I've read just a few too many `book one's` where the story is left half way through or just ends rather abruptly. Obviously there are some loose threads in the book that are left hanging, but that is what they are left hanging and not [I trust!] merely forgotten.
As the book is set on the same world, those who have read The Book of Words trilogy will recognise various aspects of A Cavern of Black Ice, the use of magic is obviously the same and places are mentioned that readers will recognise. However there is nothing that will hamper the `new to J.V.Jones` reader.
The Northern Territories, where the book is set, are extremely well thought out and presented as are the people their daily lives and beliefs. The weather is horrendous with unrelenting snow and ice; indeed the scene is so well set it leaves very little to the imagination.
As far as the plot is concerned I was for a while a little unsure if Penthero Iss [great name!] was the arch villain or if there was someone else lurking about in the background. However this was made clear and it may just be me being a tad slow that day! My only other criticism is that there is very little made of the Sword of Shadows that gives this trilogy its name.
To sum up A Cavern of Black Ice is excellent. J.V. Jones really has surpassed herself, and I can recommend it without hesitation as a long, involved, exciting, horrifying, gripping, `unputdownable` book. I also must add that the last page of a book has never left me as excited as this one did, but I'll give no more away on that. It seems to me that J.V. Jones really is one of the best fantasy writers around today, be prepared for her coronation once the trilogy is complete! Read and enjoy!