Iced – M. Terry Green
Posted by maddalena@spaceandsorcery
From the author’s site:
Though she doesn’t know her name, Thirteen is sure of two things: survival and finding her sister. Nothing stands in her way—not the great Pacifica Ice Sheet nor the slavers she escaped—until her deadly hunt takes a maddening turn. The first and only clue in her search is held by the survivor of a wrecked ice ship. But he’s not sharing. He has a daughter to rescue, and he needs Thirteen’s help. In the unforgiving subzero, a wary alliance is formed. Although she’d do anything to find her sister and finally know her own name, Thirteen never forgets the first rule of the ice. You only get one mistake—your last.
Sometimes there are books that draw you in from the very first paragraph and don’t let you go until the end, and Iced is indeed one of them. The world depicted here is our world, our Earth, but dramatically altered by some climate change that has transformed it into a ball of ice: no reason is given and yet that hardly matters – whatever happened in the past is unimportant. The focus here is on the aftermath, and the way people have adapted to this radically different – and merciless – world.
People either live in protected cities near volcanoes, drawing heat and energy from the fiery lava boiling underneath, or they move around on the ice in “boats” that use the strong winds as a propulsion force and as a source of power. In such a situation, preying on each other becomes the norm: people either trust the relative safety of a convoy or brave it alone, while slaver crews target the defenseless to supply fresh manpower to city dwellers and the feared Skulls swoop down on everyone to wreak bloody havoc.
Thirteen is one of the loners, and a very peculiar one: that’s not even her name, but just the last two digits of the identification code tattooed on any slave’s back. She hunts for slavers, drawing them in with her unthreatening looks and killing them, in her dogged pursuit for her sister’s whereabouts: that’s how she gained the name of “Ghost”, spoken with hatred by the slavers and whispered in hopeful awe by the exploited. Thirteen is unusual in many ways, appearance being the foremost: frosty hair and eyes, the latter sporting a nictitating membrane, she can blend quite easily into the colorless surroundings in a land where this ability enhances one’s chances for survival. She’s also a cypher, even to herself: it’s quite clear that some parts of her past have been erased – or maybe she chose to forget them – and that pain and anguish have damaged her both in body and spirit, yet she’s a fighter and a survivor, not at all inclined to give in to whatever fate deals her. Readers get to know Thirteen – as much as the story allows it – in small increments: she does not speak much and even that little is measured out with enormous reluctance, as Cord will learn the hard way.
He’s the other driving force of this story: a father desperate to find his daughter, abducted by slavers – that’s how he looks on the surface. Yet there are many untapped depths in Cord, not unlike Thirteen, and the tantalizing indications of an interesting past: his basic honesty and integrity play quite well against Thirteen’s wariness, making their alliance a fascinating, if complicated, one. Through Cord, and his recollections of happier times with his daughter Miyu, we also catch glimpses of everyday life in the ice-treading caravans.
Glimpses is also what we get of the way the more fortunate live: the city of Helado, built around a volcano, offers all the creature comforts one could want in that desolate landscape – warmth, food, shelter – but it’s also a place of danger and intrigue, where prince Céfiro, a cold-blooded, psychopathic killer, schemes against the king his father to gain the power he thirsts for. And what about the prophets? A cross between ministers and scientist, they look like the real power behind the throne and the hidden movers and shakers of the world.
These are all compelling hints of a broader story that sees its starting point in this book: that’s what drew me in from the beginning and kept me glued to the pages until the end – an end that left me suspended in mid-air as if over one of the many ice crevasses peppering the landscape. If I wanted to find a negative side in Iced it would be its brevity: it’s over far too soon, and it leaves you with a great amount of frustrated curiosity and too many unanswered questions – and I want to make it clear I consider this a compliment. The sheer believability of this world, the compelling nature of the characters, put their hooks into my imagination, and they will not let go until I know more about them.
To me, that’s the mark of a good, solid story. To say I’m looking forward to the rest of it, would be a massive understatement.
My Rating: 7,5/10