The king’s three children and a small group of warrior-protectors take refuge in a winter-bound steading on a northern fjord and discover there’s a traitor in their midst.
Beautiful Asa, the eldest princess, faces an arranged marriage, although she loves another. Harald, the youngest, will one day be king. But the narrator, middle daughter Solveig, is neither attractive nor particularly useful, until she begins to realize she has talent as a storyteller and could have a future as a skald, or court bard. As food runs low and bitter winter tightens its hold, someone in the group begins to sabotage the remaining supplies, and Solveig has a dream that foretells a tragic end to their efforts to survive. Interesting, well-developed characters abound, and Solveig’s strong narrative voice adds authenticity as she grows into her new role, not just telling stories of the mythical Scandinavian past but creating tales to alter the behavior of those around her. Valid clues and occasional red herrings heighten the sense of mystery. The chilly, claustrophobic, ancient setting is vividly created, and the sense of impending doom generates a gripping suspense overarching the developing—and deteriorating—relationships among the group, marking Kirby (The Clockwork Three, 2010) as a strong emerging novelist.
Recommend this one to teens who crave a good mystery set in an icily different time and place. (Alternative historical mystery. 11-18)