#190 Frostfell by Mark Sehestedt (Wizards 4)
Read 5/5/23 to 5/5/23
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Well, I read it in a day, what does that tell you?
It tells me that this is the best of these books that I have read for some considerable time, it easily gets into the top ten.
It has secrets and they are all slow reveal, it keeps you guessing- it's gripping and events are fraught and tense, and... it's a page-turner from the start, I couldn't put it down.
The characters, let's call them heroes, are really great- at the start all of them, the main players, are either broken. mid-tirade, swamped by grief and loss or else possessed of terrible secrets. Secrets that they keep close to their chest until the right time comes. The characters are also broken, bloodied, desperate and better yet- they don't have everything that they need, or else the money and servants to go and get someone to fetch them what they want. They are wild, and adrift- in the soon to be frozen north, and... it's all gone to merry heck.
It's an odd thing to ask, and a massive aside, but why do so many of the heroes of these books have everything they want or need to get where they are going, by which I mean money and resources. I honestly thought that more of these novels would be about low level desperate adventuring folk trying to make ends meet in the land of Faerun. At times I'm left thinking- where are the working classes, the honest and 'umble every-village Jo (male or female) that makes a difference in the end. Don't get me wrong, there's some of this, but a lot less than I thought there would be. Sorry, hobby-horse aside.
Back to this one.
Amira, ex-War Wizard of Cormyr is a renegade- her adopted son has been taken by Wolloch and his slavers, and then when the slavers get slaughtered it just gets worse- now the Sorcerer, think the King of the White Walkers (GoT) and you are getting close to the villain in this one. Only the reveal, on page 225- and I didn't have to write that page number down, or go and look for the page now... I remembered it (it made an impression), the reveal is just...great. Although now that I've told you there's a reveal your going to guess it way ahead of time. I didn't guess it, and I've read a few of these now.
Amira is a fantastic character- she is hate. fear, terror, despair and... a mother, and everything else besides (including the Wizard of this story)- but most of she is love, with all the fury and hurt that that entails. She is incredibly well written, it's not often that the turmoil here gets made so plain.
It's a simple story- just one thread really, a little aside here and there but for the most part it just keeps on pushing on, it's relentless. Amira and Gyaidun are both Leonardo DiCaprio in the Revenant.
Gyaidun, well- see Amira above, only it's a slow burn to the final conflagration.
The villain, again- see above, is just glorious- because he starts off kicking everyone's arse- the heroes and the initial villains (the slavers), the Sorcerer is creepy, and terrifying and... you just have to start guessing- what is he? Note at the beginning it's not even apparent he's a sorcerer, I had big money on undead, and then vampire-cum-White Walker.
The belkagen gets my vote for best supporting character so far (to make clear- in any of these books), he's a shaman although not without his tricks and his magic, and he shouts and he rages and then he gets on with doing everything he must do to move the situation on/forward, even though he knows that what comes next will be the death of him.
The elves that turn into wolves, the Vil Adanrath- their leader, the Omah Nin, their society- their hunts, all of this is glorious too, there's a whole other book for these guys surely somewhere further down this path.
Of course, there's a lot of noble savage stuff but they're not noble- they're freezing cold, tired, broken, emotional and terrifyingly potent- the Vil Adanrath are terror incarnate, and bloodthirsty with it. They are vengeance.
But nothing is certain here, the heroes don't just whistle and the pack comes running, it's all hard won- and feels that way, it feels desperate a lot of the time. There are a lot of defeats, even some of the victories are made hollow by the fact that the despair is going nowhere, the loss, it haunts the characters here. It un-makes them, almost.
As I say, very well written.
The meeting with the oracle in the Heart of the Piercing, OMG- I am stealing every second of this experience for my game, it is just glorious- even down to the montage at the end, it's just a simple idea well done, the author just keeps on rolling 20s, making the right choices to show, not tell, where we are at with the story. It's remarkable what can happen when you trust your reader to put the pieces together for themselves, no spoon-feeding. Don't get me wrong someone will close caption events eventually, but only when the reveal is done.
Which is pretty much why this one is also the best romantic novels I have read of these so far. You can see the love, no-one has to say it. You can see that they are both broken inside, and at some point you (the reader) must start to think- they're looking for their children but are they going to have to just settle with finding each other. You hope that's not the case, but then the doubt doubles back and whispers- what happens if they don't even find each other?
It's incredibly well written.
The place, the frozen wastes, is terrible.
The foes- terrible too.
The heroes, at each other's throats pretty near to the start, and it's a constant struggle from there-on in, moment by moment, to make sense of the story and get to the unholy climax at the bitter end.
It's a glorious book.
Mark Sehestedt should have been offered a contract, right there and then.
Stay safe and well you lovely people.