James Rollins’ The Cradle of Ice

download (7)James Rollins’ The Cradle of ice is the second in his Moon Fall series. While a little attempt is made to catch readers up via narration, they are likely to be a little lost if they have not already experienced The Starless Crown.

Conniving and vicious versions of royal politics play a notable role in this story, which is little surprise given that two princes are major characters. The fact tue two are ultimately in competition only deepens that issue, and the lengths one goes to to gain power are rather obvious if grotesque.

One of the actions taken is against the settings equivalent of a brothel. While not treated as a greatly respected area, the fact that it was seen as legal and something of a tragedy that the event occurred is a progressive look at sex workers in a book which is decidedly not focusing on them.

Questions of mythology and religion play a surprisingly large part in this book, as do steady and careful translations. Indeed the idea of potentially dealing with gods is discussed throughout, and the potential differing interpretations of words in old or ancient carvings can make it seem as though there was a serious doubt as to the nature of what they are looking for. Combined with other strange happenings in the book it is an effective way to build mystery and confusion as to the possible solutions to the upcoming apocalypse.

Arguably one of the greater problems with the text is those strange happenings. In spite of each volume being at least a few hundred pages long, James Rollins is not always great at making clear what the status quo is in this world. As a result unusual happenings, such as the “emptying” on page 654 will seem horrifying and grotesque but possibly not for the reasons that the story indicates it should. This is to say that while the basics of it will seem horrifying either way, what has changed compared to the way it is expected to go in universe is not merely the status of the “empty” individuals.

In addition to the large number of maps at the beginning, there are a number of full page drawn illustrations that help to flush out the strange creatures of this world. One such entity is a narwhal toothed quadruped with multiple believable sketches of its build movement and posture. While this one appears just before section six “A Palace in Panic” others punctuate throughout much of the text. Some of the creatures are closer two ones from our world than others, but the end result is that many of these illustrations feel all the more credible for the similarities that those have. Illustrations were created by Danea Fidler,  whose name appears in the acknowledgments but not in any of the initial credits for the book. It’s a similar situation for the one who designed the maps (Soraya Corcoran) although later credits for mapping and cartography are more traditional in fantasy novels. Neither of these is a condemnation of the book as such, merely a note for an unusual decision.

Overall anyone who enjoyed the previous volume should check this one out. Curious parties would do better to start at the beginning of the series, as often even when recap happens it is closer to an important related event than the beginning of the book. Still it is a good continuation, and fans should look forward to the next volume.

(Tor 2023)

Warner Holme

Warner Holme is a longtime booklover who tends to read anything he can. He has held many positions, ranging from the educational to medical all the way to the mildly usurous. Largely forgotten by those around him, Warner has lived in a number of locations, yet keeps being pulled back to the south. He currently lives there with his pets, and politely asks not to be disturbed.

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