I have no intention of becoming a book reviewer, but I do want to start talking about books that I’ve read more often. Instead of a review, you’re likely to get a ramble about the book, my emotional state while reading it, or whatever tangents I feeling like exploring.
The first book I read in 2013 was Matthew J. Kirby‘s Icefall, and I absolutely loved it. Do you like vikings? Strong female main characters? Complex side characters? Storytelling? Mythology? Adventure and intrigue? Well, Icefall has all of those things and wraps them up in wonderfully descriptive language that evokes the very fjords themselves. (Kirby’s use of kennings made me squee with delight.)
Icefall is a middle-grade book, but anyone who wants to fill the chill of a glacier as a young girl tries to find her place in her family and in the world will enjoy it. (<--Huge understatement.) Don't believe me? Check out this blurb from Ursula K. Le Guin:
Clear, lively, exciting, and unstoppable as the torrent of meltwater from a glacier, Icefall confirms Matthew Kirby as one of our finest new writers for young adults. Readers of any age may be enthralled by the bitter Nordic winter setting and the story of a girl who needs a lot of courage to discover who she is.
I have always loved mythology, ever since I was a little girl. I picked it for every school project, particularly when the project involved drawing chimeras or dragons. One of my earliest pictures is of Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipner, which I present alongside its canonical source:
(Yes, that’s the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons manual Deities and Demigods. Now you all know that Sleipner was Lawful Neutral. You’re welcome.)
My love of Norse mythology carried over into college. Once I gave up on my computer science degree, I focused on Icelandic sagas, Old English, and Beowulf. In fact, the first real story I ever wrote (that wasn’t for a D&D game) was an original Icelandic saga for class. I even joined the local chapter of the SCA, Myrkfaelinn, whose charter was written in Old Icelandic. (Note: Kirby talks about the berserkers in Icefall: they also exist in the SCA and D&D, too!) I did my field study in Ireland and finished college with degrees in English and Archaeology, but really in Medieval Studies.
After college, when I finally began writing stories, my first two professional sales (my first two sales in general) were both Norse mythology-related: “Memory and Reason” (Prom Night), an sf tale that referenced Odin’s two ravens, and “Valkyrie” (Sword & Sorceress XVII) about an older woman realizing she is more than her father’s daughter, her husband’s wife, or her son’s mother.
I’m not going to post any of my Celtic knotwork here, so much of it inspired by Norse culture and art, but rest assured: there’s enough to fill a fjord.
Later, I named my blog “Memory and Reason” and created a logo for it: two ravens in front of the moon. In my mind, “Memory” made me think of fantasy, and “Reason” of science fiction. It still does, and I think I may need to resurrect this logo and start using it again. (A variation of this might even make a decent tattoo, as it also evokes the symbolism of the yin-yang circle, another huge part of my life.)
So, thank you, Matthew Kirby, for rekindling my love of Vikings and Norse mythology. Icefall is an incredible book and certainly one of the best sagas I have read.