In Rivera’s epic debut YA fantasy novel, a group of children faces off against an evil ice queen.
At the novel’s outset, a group of children plans a daring escape from the Ice Queen’s prison. At first, the story’s 11-year-old hero, John, doesn’t feel up to the task, but his unlikely friendship with a talking rat teaches him that he may have latent talents, including the ability to illuminate himself and summon an otherworldly power. He eventually helps his friends out of many dire situations. In their journey from the Ice Queen’s palace to the home of the Fire King, they encounter many challenges and adventures, meet extraordinary creatures and learn more about the pasts that the Ice Queen wiped from their memories. Although one of the children perishes along the way (and others turn against their friends), the group manages to survive against the odds. It’s unclear who the target audience for this book is, although it’s apparently aimed at an older middle-grade or younger YA audience. There are suggestions that the young characters are in their teens (and some hints of romance), but the text repeatedly refers to them as “kids,” and they speak in a somewhat hokey dialect; some phrases, such as “Stop being such a square,” seem to have been borrowed from a 1950s sitcom. The relationships between the boys and girls are also somewhat old-fashioned: The boys always seem to be the heroes, while the girls tend to be mere love interests. For example, when the kids are forced to choose between two factions, readers are told that a girl named Pippy “had a crush on Rob, so she would go to whichever side he had chosen.” (Shortly after this scene, helpless Pippy runs away after she’s overwhelmed by having to make a decision.) However, although the book is on the long side, it moves along quickly, with lots of action and new dangers to threaten the intrepid children, and its ending leaves room for a sequel.
An old-fashioned fantasy, but younger readers seeking a new world to explore may enjoy its classic feel.