Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Ice Crown

by Sean Beech

The Lands of the Moon are one of those busy fantasy realms that a host of mythological races and creatures call home. Prince Morkin is the bright-eyed heir to the throne, a young and popular lad. However he can't claim the title of king because the Ice Crown has been stolen. Whilst the land is without a ruler its regions are disunited, and it runs the risk of civil war.

The Fennigan Wolves are also suffering as a result of a theft, in this case of their Ancient Howl. These large wolves have the use of language, and they are smarter and stronger than regular wolves. But they are left shamed and disempowered by the loss of their Howl, which is a supernatural cry with the ability to unite the packs.

The Ice Crown also encompasses Fey, mages, dragons, trolls, and other creatures in a rambling narrative peopled with some rough stereotypes. The Order of the Dark Knights are merely one of the most extreme examples of this, brutal and black-suited bad guys who cause most of the conflict. The author points out several times that their emblem is a red crescent, a piece of politically incorrect symbolism that's cringe-makingly bald.

The prose is deadened by repetition and marred by poor grammar and punctuation, to the extent that this novel is close to unreadable. For instance, in the first two paragraphs of chapter 10 the author squeezes in the words "concern" or "concerned" no less than ten times. Unfortunately this isn't an isolated case. Beech doesn't use commas well either, often running several sentences together instead of putting full stops where they belong. The proof-reading and editing seem to be non-existent, and sadly this is a piece of work that needs those things more than most. The result is that The Ice Crown takes far longer to read than it should. This isn't helped by the author's proclivity for using four words where one would do.

The tale follows a number of threads. Ranabin is a comic relief character, the youngest of five ancient mages and the one the other magic users choose to disrespect. His adventures are told in an irreverent style that's occasionally amusing, although the tone of the chapters he appears in is so different from the rest of the novel that they seem to be part of a different story altogether.

One of the problems with the plot is the sheer number of different characters, most of whom tend to go their own way. Often they are so roughly sketched that they are little more than caricatures. On various occasions they behave bafflingly, obeying the strictures of the plot when all other signals suggest that they would be motivated to do the opposite. Guards allow people they distrust to pass unhindered, unlikely friendships are struck up, and enemies come to the rescue of characters they ought not to lift a finger for. Whilst each of these actions could be explained away in theory, they're not consistent with what we know of the characters involved, who all too frequently lack credibility. The protagonists aren't believable, and nor is their behaviour.

Perhaps the worst offenders are the Fey elders, a group of clichéd and pompous hippies who seem to be incapable of any straight talk. Their main point seems to be to add a mystical and prophetic air to events, but their effect is more tedious than spiritual.

If there's something to enjoy in The Ice Crown, it's unlikely to be worth the effort of teasing it out. Flowery and overlong descriptions, bad punctuation and stereotypical characters are just some of the flaws that stand in the way of your reading pleasure. There's no deeper moral meaning, nor witty dialogue, nor deft understanding of the human condition to redeem this dire, stale escapism.

Book Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
  Male Protagonist  

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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson


Fern Bamber     9th February, 2009 11:11am

I love fantasy fiction and just had to read this book. I am surprised by the review posted here and would have to disagree with most of the points. I found the book both refreshing and humourous, something sadly lacking in the genre as a whole. The mix of characters works well and I especially liked the Wolves of Fennigan. Now whilst I agree that some of the punctuation does not conform it in no way affects the quality of the story. I loved the way the characters behaved in relation to the plot, which is fast, frantic and interesting. I read this in one day and would recommend it to anybody. One final point I must commend the author on donating 50% of his royalties to the National Literacy Trust.

John Tresco     7th March, 2009 14:08pm

The Ice Crown is now one of my favourite books. Packed full of original thoughts, ideas and plot. Characters that are well realised, life-like and lovable. This is fantasy fiction at its best. Far better than any of the Harry Potter books. As for editing and punctuation - for me I would substitute those for his style. I think the author has been very clever and I really enjoyed his style of writing. If you like your fantasy fiction fast, frantic and full of humour then I would recommend this highly. If you like predicatable storylines then steer clear - this is anything but. 5 out of 5

jane acton     2nd April, 2009 17:45pm

I would have to agree with Ros on this one relating to punctuation. But and it is a big but I did not find that it detracted from the story. I would, however, have to disagree with her relating to the red cescent though. I study religious artifacts and whilst the red crescent has its links to the Islamic states there are equally as many other cultures that use it. I did not find anything distasteful or un-PC about its use in this story. As to the story itself - it is escapism, I enjoyed it for what it is. Equally many would not for exactly the same reasons. What I will say is that I found that the characters behaviour excited me - gone was the stale predicatable plot - the characters in this behave in a believable manner but the author has obviously thought outside the box. In doing so their behaviour might seem bizarre in that it is not quite what you expect - but hey I want that. Who wants to read a storyline that you can guess your way through?

Overall a solid debut - one that could be better with some professional editing. But Melrose Books - the publisher - are not Harper Collins and I doubt they have the same budget. I also believe that the Harry Potter series got slated for its poor editing and look at where they ended up!

Sam Hutchings     13th June, 2009 11:50am

I love reviewers who slate books - it certainly perks my interest. Can it really be as bad as Ros makes out? So I bought it and found something in between. Yes there are problems here but most of those are personal preference - The only thing that hampered my overall enjoyment was some of the editing - it is in no way as bad as Ros makes out in her review - but could in places do with some tightening up and does on occasion make you have to re-read a few lines.
The plot and characters more than make up for this though and judging by the reviews I have seen elsewhere and the books nomination for the August Derleth Fantasy Novel of the year - it would appear that Ros is certainly in the minority in relation to her thoughts.

My advice - try it for yorself - I did and though not a masterpiece it certainly entertained and left me wanting more.

Timothy Conlan     8th September, 2009 08:31am

We had the author into our school and before he arrived I did some research and found this review. It caught my interest as it was the only negative I could find on the book. Personnel preference or honest critique? Well the only way to find out was to read the book which our school bought for our library.
There is much to love about the story. The Wolves of Fennigan, the Mage Ranabin, Mr Grabbit and Vangor are all very colourful believable characters. They add spice to a plot that has more twists and turns in than a worm caught on a hook.
I was always led to believe that the mark of a good book is in its ability to draw the reader in and entertain. The Ice Crown certainly does this and left me wanting to know more. I could mention poor editing, but do not know enough about it myself to critique. I found it an easy read if that is of any use.



Ruth McCulloch     3rd February, 2010 17:58pm

Was given this book by a friend at university because I like to discover new authors. I have read the reviews posted here and on other sites regarding this book and they seem to range from awful all the way up to fantastic!! Which in my humble opinion can only mean one thing the book is a different from the norm. Having read it I now know why. True some reviewers have concentrated on the lack of descriptive depth of the characters and poor punctuation but in doing so they are also missing a great story which has only just really started. The plot is interesting and has enough of a twist in it to make you want to read on. The descriptions of the settings are so vivid you can almost see and taste them whilst you read and the characters do not behave conventionally as the reviewer here points out. But who wants convention in your books? This is about fanatasy not real life and in a fantasy as long as they behave consistantly then all the better for non-convention I say.
I do feel the review here is a bit harsh. It is certainly not the best book I have read, but it is certainly no way near the worst. I would give this a three and a half out of 5. But what do I know I am but a mere weird bookworm.

Love Ruth

Sigrud Thorskill     16th August, 2010 18:23pm

Loved this book. Hated the bad editing. The plot is intriguing whilst the punctuation is doubtful. However it is the story that this should be judged on and not the quality of the editing dept at Melrose Books? This bears a great similarity in style to that of Robin Hobb, an author of great reknowned. If you like her then try this I promise you will not be disappointed.

kenny mcleod     24th August, 2010 10:47am

i have read the book and enjoyed it immensely the story plot flows and characters enjoyable.The review by ROS was a bit harsh.As this is the authors first book i found it intriguing and it did make me want to read on.i would recommend this book and im looking forward to the next installment which is called "The Silver Fox" which is out on the 30th August 2010 Well done Mr beech.

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