Between the recent surge of interest in Norse myths and legends and the popularity of movies like Disney's "Frozen" this is a fine time to turn our attention back to Fisher's underappreciated "Snow-Walker". It has everything you could want - a plucky and engaging young outlaw heroine cheated out of her birthright, and enough snow and ice to frost-bite your fingertips while you hold the book. Add an evil, magic wielding, usurper, Ice Queen Snow-walker and her mysterious, possibly monstrous, child/creature, (who has been exiled to an abandoned frozen castle), and you're all set.
There are several housekeeping items the reader should be aware of. This was originally published as three separate books, ("The Snow-walker's Son", "The Empty Hand", and "The Soul Thieves"), and billed as a trilogy, or "The Snow-walker Sequence". It was reissued in the United States as one volume in three Parts. So, first off, look carefully at what you're buying in order to ensure that you're getting the volume(s) you want. The full tale runs to over 600 pages. Individual volumes are in the 180 to 220 page range. Also be aware that there is a fair amount of overlapping and repetition from Part to Part, reflecting the book's origins as three separate books in a trilogy, but there's no real harm in that.
Because this is a three-part epic fantasy quest adventure some characters disappear from Part to Part and new characters enter late in the game. Players you think will be important may just disappear. The three characters to watch are the rebellious heroine Jessa, the "monster" child Kari, and the evil Snow-walker Queen Gudrun. There are fairly distinct plots and quests from Part to Part and then one overarching arc involving resistance against the evil ice Queen. (MILD PLOT SPOILERS: Part 1 mostly involves discovering the identity and powers of the mystery child. Part 2 is the story of how the good guys battle the Queen's terrifying rune beast, and is the most intentionally Beowulf-ish. Part 3 finds evil enchantments and soul thefts caused by the Ice Queen, and wraps up in a final world breaking Mother/Son confrontation.)
This was written for younger readers and the character development is a bit light as a consequence. The writing is crisp and direct, and atmosphere and action and the frozen waste settings are what is emphasized. There's no romance, no deep hero thoughts, and no complex intrigue. There isn't much in the way of violence; this is more along the lines of a battle of wills between Mother and Son. That said, this is still a fantasy actioner, with a magical mythical chaser. The tales are accordingly clearly laid out and fast paced. Fisher is a story teller, and she tells a ripping tale.
Some of this sounds vaguely negative, but it really shouldn't. The overall impression I formed was that this felt like a Celtic/Norse middle grade light version of a Beowulf and Grendel tale, and that's just an excellent sort of book to have available for a younger reader. It's not wand magic; it's not a school daze story; it's not Arthurian. But it is "let's all gather in the Mead Hall and have a tale", and it's just the thing to warm up a winter's chill.
- Hardcover: 507 pages
- Publisher: Greenwillow (1 August 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060724749
- ISBN-13: 978-0060724740
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.9 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 816 g
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