Sunday, 7 June 2009

Blade of Fire by Stuart Hill

2006, The Chicken House
640 pages
Childrens fantasy: 10 years+

Cushions: 2/5
Daggers: 2/5
Smiles: 3/5
Overall rating: 5/5

The saga which began with The Cry of the Icemark carries on at a later time date. Thirrin and her husband Oskan reign over their kingdom, with four children whose personalities are rather different. Their nemesis, Scipio Bellorum is still determined to wipe them out from the face of the earth - along with his two sons.

It makes a very interesting read. The characters are as funny as ever, although Thirrin is definitely showing signs of strain from being both Queen and a mother. Oskan's supernatural powers have developed tremendously. He has to watch when he uses them. It's a good thing they've grown, considering how one of the royal children, Medea (anyone else thinking of the Medea of Ancient Greeks who sought revenge on Jason?) is an evil little madam. That is putting it mildly for a girl who spends the entire novel trying to kill her siblings. I enjoyed having one of the villains be part of the royal family - it made quite a change from unrelated villains who usually feature in books. Jealousy is not an emotion to be trifled with.

The dark side of Medea is countered by her other siblings. There's the eldest, who is set to be queen when her parents die. I felt sorry for Cressida: she makes a good crown princess, but sometimes she tries too hard. It's something she regrets when a tragedy hits the family. The twins Eodrac and Cerdric, are hilarious with their antics and attitude.

Then there's Sharley, who is really the centre of the story. Although he recovered from a childhood illness, he's left with a slightly dodgy leg. As a result, he's not encouraged to become a fighter - in the eyes of court he's too weak. Frustration is at the forefront of Sharley's mind. He hates watching his siblings do all the things that he can't. This touched my heart: Sharley's character couldn't have been written any better. The confused emotions he feels are realistic, especially when he's sent off to exile so he can be safe from the invasion. Named IceMark's acting regent helps boost his confidence a little, a confidence which surprises his family when he returns at the end of the novel.

The story evolves around Thirrin and her family fighting Scipio and his family. New allies are made, each child has their own point of view which is delved into on a regular basis. This second installment is choc full of new wonders, starkingly different environments and cultures. Stuart Hill shines with how he weaves these elements into the story which focuses on characters and the environment equally. The vivid descriptions take the reader away to a wonderful world, not unlike our own.

Content: There are many cushion moments - I groaned every time I put the book down. Make sure a box of tissues is nearby, someone in Thirrin's family dies. There's a little coarse language, but no swearing that I can remember. It's violent in places, but then this is a war story.

If you like this, try The Story of Cirrus Flux.

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