‘The Cry of the Icemark’ – Stuart Hill

The Cry of the Icemark has been one of my favourite books since I was a teenager.

I picked it up again a couple of months ago when I was looking for something easy and fun to flick through. So, I’ve been slowly chipping away at it while I’ve been plodding through other books too (I know, I know… I shouldn’t read two at once. But this was just a one-time thing – I promise).

And, it ended up being just as exciting as the first time I read it!

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The plot follows Thirrin Freer Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield, princess of a little kingdom called the Icemark. Her people are suddenly thrown into danger as General Scipio Bellorum of the Polypontian Empire decides to invade. With a ruthless reputation, he’s conquered most of the known world, showing no mercy as he exploits the land for resources and enslaves each country’s people.

Thirrin’s father, King Redrought, is killed while sacrificing his entire army to prevent the advances of the Polypontian forces, leaving her to save the little land. And the only way is to make allies. She travels far and wide in search of new friends, facing danger and the unknown along the way. But finally Thirrin stands against Bellorum and the Polypontian army in the battle for her kingdom.

The Cry of the Icemark is Stuart Hill’s debut novel, and I have to say, he did a cracking job!

Just as a slight warning though, even though it’s been dubbed as a children’s novel, its detailed descriptions of battle make me say it’s definitely more suited to teenagers. There are a couple of rather gory bits too. So I’d just think twice before handing it straight to a kid.

Saying that though, I don’t think it should be limited to a teenage audience – adults can enjoy it just as much (as I clearly found out)!

Not only is it just a great story, but The Cry of the Icemark really made me appreciate Stuart Hill’s skill with language too. With such clear and detailed descriptions of the landscape, readers are transported right into Thirrin’s world, and we’re thrown straight into the action.

Plus, the way Hill writes war scenes is just amazing – it’s so engaging, tense and exciting! Despite knowing nothing about battle tactics, I had such an exact image in my head of what was going on, which is really something to be admired in my opinion. Especially when war can be so chaotic!

Don’t get me wrong, now that I’m older and have read the book a few times, some parts of the plot feel very convenient, which made bits of it seem a little juvenile. But I don’t think it takes away from the fact that it’s just a really good story.

I also find it fascinating how Hill seems to combine so many different worlds in his tale. Not only does he take creatures straight out of fantasy worlds (think vampires, werewolves and warlocks), but he also appears to incorporate ancient cultures as well.

With references to Odin and Valhalla, the people of the Icemark are definitely based on the Vikings. Then Scipio Bellorum’s extensive success in battle and his creation of such a huge Empire made me immediately draw comparisons with the Romans. And, we also meet Thirrin’s aunt Elemnestra, the Basilea of Hypolita, and I couldn’t help but imagine her people as the Greeks.

Even though Hill just seems to throw all these different cultures together in a big mixing pot, it actually really works!

The Cry of the Icemark is definitely film material too. I picture it being like a cross between The Golden Compass and Game of Thrones (I know Thrones isn’t a movie, but it just gives you an idea…). I believe Fox 2000 did actually buy the rights to it, but that was like 15 years ago and we haven’t heard an awful lot since. It’d be such a shame if it just fizzled out like that though, because it would be so stunning and exciting on the big screen.

But never mind, the book will have to do for now. And I guess that’s no bad thing really, because it’s bloody brilliant!

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