An immersive tale of adversity, family, inner strength, love and betrayal in which you can feel the ice in your bones and the fire on your skin.
Thanks to Storytellers on Tour and J. D. L. Rosell for the opportunity to read The Throne of Ice and Ash, a book I breezed through in no time.
There is a lot of originality to this story, which feels in some parts like a well written historical fiction, with traitors, swords, successions and manoeuverings behind the scenes, but combined with more fantasy and mythological elements as the story unfolds.
A technique in books I’d like to see more of that Rosell utilises really well is a small introductory paragraph or sentence to each chapter, with a piece of history, culture or quote from a legendary character. It helps build the wider picture, being able to throw some more information our way that just wouldn’t fit organically into other parts of the story.
Action is aplenty; something is always happening that keeps you interested and intrigued, and the events taking place in a well imagined word really helps with the immersion. You can practically feel the cold (and at times, the heat) impacting the story, following Bjorn through the snows and ice and Aelthena through the bindings of tradition and oppressive patriarchy.
The book’s main strength to me is in its two protagonists, who are brother and sister – Bjorn being the (recent) heir to an usurped throne, Aelthena being the woman bound by the trappings of a patriarchal culture/religion to be a subservient house wife.
Bjorn doesn’t want this position and knows his sister is much better suited to lead – as does she, who desperately wants to prove her strength of character and leadership abilities.
Both characters’ inner turmoil and desire to prove themselves is a large part of what drives the story with both desiring and being better suited to the opposite of their intended fate. Bjorn is expected to be a bear, brave and commanding. Aelthena is expected to be meek and to follow rather than be followed. Whilst Bjorn does have a desire to fight against his nature, Aelthena is consumed by hers and we really feel her struggles and frustrations especially as she navigates a male dominated Norse inspired society (which is arguably more patriarchal than the culture it takes its inspiration from).
Speaking of the Norse influences, I really like that it’s a Norse inspired world with its own flavour, that takes those Norse elements to enhance the story but is not consumed by their restraints. It feels like Rosell has his own direction in mind which is shown in choosing not to include unmistakable parallels with Norse Mythology, but still picking and choosing some of the elements he finds complimentary to the story he wants to tell.
For example, he incorporates Ice and Fire giants into his world – named jotunar and surtunar respectively. Anyone with a knowledge of Norse mythology can see the non-disguised inspiration being these names.
(For those without any knowledge of Norse Mythology, The Jötnar are the giants of the icy land of Jötunheimr. Muspelheim, the world bathed in flame, is guarded and ruled by the fire giant, Surt.)
For me, this familiar yet very new world felt really engaging and intriguing. And although I enjoyed the start of the tale that felt like the struggle for succession and plotting and all that other stuff I especially love in a fantasy story, the world built here was especially ripe for the mythological and monstrous introductions that come later, which I particularly enjoyed.
Some series feature books that can almost be read as a standalone with a full story arc and mini conclusion – if you’re looking for that however I’d say with this one it’s definitely more of a part one rather than its own story, despite tying up some of the threads.
If you’re looking for an immersive fantasy story with a fresh feel even in a continually growing Norse inspired market (no complaints from me there) definitely give this one a try! It was fun and it kept me engaged throughout.
A throne in peril, a tragic betrayal, two heirs struggling to save their land, and a prophesied war threatening to engulf the world…
Bjorn, youngest heir to the Mad Jarl of Oakharrow, has always felt more at ease with a quill than a sword. Yet when calamity strikes his family, he must draw a blade and lead a company of warriors into the cold, deadly mountains in pursuit of a mysterious foe. Though he seeks vengeance, an ancient power stirs within him, and the whispers of prophecy beckon him toward an ominous destiny…
Aelthena, Bjorn’s sister, was born with the aptitude to lead, and she’s eager to prove it. But her society’s rules for women, and her love for her brother, restrain her efforts to command. As she walks the fine line between ambition and virtue, enemies of both mankind and myth rise against Oakharrow’s throne, and even her allies question her right to rule…