If the blood and gore at the beginning doesn’t put you off, you’re going to love this book. Ice Maiden is Sally Prue’s prequel to her first novel Cold Tom. (That must be rather like making your firstborn a second child…)
Blood and gore. Yes, it’s not terribly vegetarian at any point, so either the blood eases off a little or I got used to it. But even as us wimps gag over the rabbit, the writing is so first class that there is no question about giving up. Or maybe I’m just terribly brave.
I had no idea what to expect, and having read the blurb carelessly I found I got even less of what I expected. Which is good. This made more sense, as long as fantasy makes sense. You mix fairies – of sorts – with the run-up to WWII.
Franz has arrived in England with his parents, and we work out that they came just after Kristallnacht. But from what he says about his parents, whom he calls the Squirrel and the Wolf, we know they are no innocent, persecuted Jews. He hates his parents. That makes him lonely. That and being at the receiving end of xenophobic bullying from the local boys for being a Nazi.
It’s Franz’s lack of love and friendship which Edrin, the Ice Maiden in the woods, senses. She, and her Tribe, despise the Demons (humans) for their invisible vines that tie them together and have them behave so very irrationally. Against her instincts Edrin is drawn to Franz, and he can sense her, although she’s invisible to demons.
The story is a marvellously woven tale of nature versus civilisation, England versus Germany, cruelty versus friendship and looking after those who are weak or different. (This sounds very wet, but it’s really powerful stuff.)
Sally’s writing carries you through the book at great speed, and you wonder what will become of Edrin and Franz, and you just need to know quite how bad his parents are, and what her tribe might do, and if the local bullies will see the light.
It doesn’t sound from all this as though the book can be funny, but it is. And sad.
Edrin may be a fairy from the woods, but she’s female enough to covet the Squirrel’s shoes.
Turd shelter. Now there’s a new word for it.
And I can’t leave you without a quote about the Ice Maiden; ‘in case she strangled someone or ate someone’s kitten’. That tells you about the gore, and also that Edrin is not your average cute fairy.