Once again, I crashed into the second book of a series. Would this impact my enjoyment of this wide-ranging, multi-viewpoint epic fantasy?
Deep in the polar south stands a city like no other, a city built aeons ago by a civilisation mighty and wise. The City of Ice promises the secrets of the ancients to whomever can reach it first. It may prove too little knowledge too late, for the closest approach of the Twin in 4000 years draws near, an event that has heralded terrible destruction in past ages. As the Kressind siblings pursue their fortunes, the world stands upon the dawn of a new era, but it may yet be consumed by a darkness from the past.
It did take a while to get going, but then I wasn’t invested or aware of the cast of characters featuring in this sprawling fantasy as I hadn’t read the previous book, The Iron Ship. However, once I worked out who was doing what to whom, I became engrossed in this interesting and original take on a very familiar format. For starters, this is something of a genre mash-up. The society depicted is in the early stages of an industrial revolution and use magic to power their machinery, which is having some unfortunate side effects. While the Kressind family were clearly at the heart of the previous book, the plot has since snaked off into all sorts of directions, so that there were a number of intriguing storylines that had me wanting to know more.
The main one I really enjoyed was the progress of the intrepid explorers heading towards the City of Ice in a bid to uncover more of the secrets of an ancient race that, until recently, ruled over humanity. McKinley is very good at scene setting, so the biting cold allied to the constant need for chipping away the ice constantly forming on the superstructure of this metal ship sprang from the pages. Add to the mix a stowaway and talking dogs and you’ll appreciate this is a voyage where plenty is going on other than an exploration to a fabled city.
The other interesting plot that held me throughout the book was that of Madalyn, who offered herself to the Dark Lord, a horned godling with a fearsome reputation. She has got herself into something of a financial muddle, so offers to be his female companion in return for a very generous settlement if all goes well. If it doesn’t – she won’t need to worry about her finances, anyway… This is a fascinating subplot that also included the story of the Godhome, an abandoned palace that was attacked by the most powerful mage in history who drove out the gods on the grounds that they didn’t have mankind’s best interests at heart.
There are also the tyn, demons who will happily feast on humans but who can also be brought under control by magical means. They exist more or less alongside humanity, though as you can imagine, it isn’t always an easy relationship… I could go on about more of the interesting stories McKinley portrays in this rich, multi-faceted world, but instead I suggest you give yourself an early New Year’s treat and get hold of The Iron Ship. For fans of epic fantasy – even if it isn’t your go-to genre – this is an enjoyable, nicely intricate world with plenty to ponder once you’ve reached the climactic ending.
Receiving a copy of The City of Ice from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.