Working in his uncle's butchery in the City of Glass, Isandor knows that he has a strange ability. He can turn animals in to ghosts by cutting out their hearts. He knows it's magic and not allowed and has to stay hidden if he is ever become an Eagle Knight.
Then a stranger arrives in town. He is the sorcerer Tandor and he claims that he can help Isandor become a Knight, in return for a gruesome task: to bring him the heart of the Queen.
As fans of Mark Lawrence (Prince of Thorns) will know, he recently launched a project to several bloggers (see full list at the end of this review) to give them a selection of 25 self-published books, submitted by volunteering authors, from the same genre in an effort to offer more spotlight onto the books, mainly from the fantasy genre, that they might not normally get otherwise. You can find out more about this project here, as well as the books that I’ll be covering. Fire & Ice is the first novel that I have chosen and is currently available for free on the Kindle Store.
The first thing that grabbed me about the book is the premise. It sounds incredibly interesting, with what looks to be a richly developed world and that’s certainly true. There are some great ideas floating about here with some interesting characters that feels kind of steampunk-y with a unique location of an Antarctic environment. You can tell that a lot of thought’s been put into the world, and it really pays off in this book.
The ‘Imperfect’ magical system is handled very well with an intriguing concept of Icefire. The rich background of the setting is explored in great detail with the environment really playing a role in the book; for example, if you are an Imperfect then things aren’t looking too great for you, with the Eagle Knights, who fear the return of the old family, constantly hunting down Imperfects and killing them. They are formidable foes not to be taken lightly, and needless to say, things aren’t looking great for those who have that ability, which two of our main characters do.
Isandor, an ex-Knight’s apprentice, and Jevaithi, who is only kept alive because she is the Queen, are the main characters who we follow and unfortunately they’re not developed as well as I would have liked. It doesn’t help that both Isandor and Jevaithi fall into the insta-love trope fairly easily, which kind of takes away from the story a bit. However, thankfully, Tandor offers an interesting alternative for a lead character, and is heavily flawed, coming across as the most well-developed of the lot . So it’s safe to say that there’s a real mix of personalities here and whilst not all of them work, the ones that do are enjoyable.
The book itself however, feels rushed in places, and doesn’t really move along as smoothly as I would have perhaps liked it to. Maybe with a smoother pace things would have worked a whole lot better, but in this case, it didn’t quite hit all the high notes. It’s also worth noting that Fire & Ice ends on a cliffhanger, and with the second and third books in the trilogy currently available, it is making me strongly consider checking out this novel to see where it will take us in the future. There’s a lot of interesting ideas here and the concept is appealing enough to make you want to find out more.
Even if Fire & Ice may feel a tad rushed, it does allow for a quick read. It won’t take you long to get through it at all, with the shorter pagecount serving as an advantage. There’s plenty of promise here for it to improve in the second and third acts however, and I’m hopeful for better things to come. The concept is fascinating even if it doesn’t always pay off, and with the book currently available for free, you could do far worse than check this out.
Note: I chose this book at random from the SPFBO and this is the first novel that I’ve read, so things have gotten off to a fairly decent start and I’ll be looking forward to reading more. As mentioned above, I’ll try and review all the novels that I manage to finish reading. Also, you can find the link to all of the other awesome bloggers partaking in this project under the “Sites of Interest” tab on the right – Beauty in Ruins, Fictiongarden, Bibliotropic, Bookworm Blues, Fantasy Faction, Elitist Book Reviews, Lynn’s Book Blog, Fantasy Book Critic, The Speculative Book Review and Fantasy Book Review. Go check them out!
Also, I’ll have a post on my full first impressions of the books that I received – the best covers, the most interesting looking blurbs etc, up on my blog sometime over the next couple of weeks.