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READALICIOUS! Books for Tweens

Icefall, by Matthew Kirby

My Dad sure can tell a story! We’ll be on the edge of our seats one moment, wondering if he survived some brutal, post-war military exercise (and, duh, of course he did because he’s telling us the story, 60 years later...), and then laughing hysterically as he explains how he showed off for pretty Fräuleins on the German Alps (one hitch: the handsome American soldier didn’t know how to ski!).

I imagine author Matthew Kirby has a storyteller in his past. After reading his fabulous debut novel, The Clockwork Three, I was thrilled when my sister Lorraine came home from a middle grade author buzz panel at BookExpo America with an advanced copy of his second novel, ICEFALL.

Whoo boy. What a story!

Set in Medieval Norway, three Viking children have been spirited away to a hidden fortress for safety while their father defends his kingdom against an enemy warlord. The kids are in the care of trusted family servants and soldiers—or so they think. Winter is setting in (no small thing in the mountains of Norway). Supplies are low.

The plot gets spicy early with the arrival of the king’s special forces, a group of about 20 fearsome berserkers. Tagging along with the soldiers is Alric the skald, the king’s personal storyteller.

Everyone’s concern is protecting the King’s heir—his young son, Harald. But our main character is the unlikely middle child, a plain, headstrong girl named Solveig. (Solveig? Here's how Viking parents named their children.)

When things in the steading (castle) start going very wrong, it is apparent to everyone trapped inside that a traitor lurks amongst them.

Solveig calms and comforts the group with her tales of Viking Gods and heroes. She is coming to realize the power of her stories when she says:

Until now, I thought only of what stories could do in their moment. I was the ploughman, turning the hearts of my audience like soil, thinking I could bend the earth to my will. But stories have a quieter and more subtle power than that. Now I see that I am also the ploughman’s wife walking behind him, dropping seed into the earth, leaving them to grow in meaning. I realize that every story I have ever heard is a part of me, deeply rooted, whispering behind my thoughts.

Alric recognizes this unique talent in Solveig and sees that it might ultimately save them all. But he also worries that she can’t keep her strong emotions and opinions to herself. Her sharp tongue could spell doom for her and her siblings.

Like all well-told stories, ICEFALL will take you on a spellbinding journey. Don’t miss out on this medieval Viking adventure (coming October 2011).

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