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by Kirby, Matthew J.

Publishers Weekly Kirby follows The Clockwork Three with a tense mystery that blends history and Norse myth. Solveig-the plain and oft-ignored second daughter to a king away at war-has been sent to safety high in the fjords, along with her siblings, beautiful Asa and future heir Harald, and others loyal to her father. As winter closes in, food grows scarce, and tempers flare. When tragedy strikes, it becomes clear that one among them is a traitor. Their only diversion comes from the stories told by Alric, the resident skald, who takes on Solveig as an apprentice. With her ability to spin tales and find the truth, can Solveig uncover the traitor? Kirby turns in a claustrophobic, thought-provoking coming-of-age adventure that shows a young woman growing into her own, while demonstrating the power of myth and legend. Kirby's attention to detail and stark descriptions make this an effective mood piece. Readers may be drawn in by the promise of action, which Kirby certainly fulfills, but they'll be left contemplating the power of the pen versus the sword-or rather the story versus the war hammer. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Gr 4-7-Solveig and her two siblings are sent to the far end of a fiord for safety's sake while their father battles to save his kingdom. Solveig knows that the elite warriors who brought them there are entrusted to guard her younger brother, Harald, the crown prince. Older sister Asa, favored for her beauty and marriage potential, causes Solveig to agonize about her own insignificance and lack of purpose. Supplies dwindle while waiting for victory news, and anxiety increases as a warship full of the king's berserkers arrives just as ice closes over the fiord. Stranded for the winter, the untamed warriors are restless and unpredictable, and begin to raise mayhem in the camp, killing Solveig's pet goat and accusing one another of treason. Calmed only by listening to stories told by Alrec the skald (poet of the living past), the boorish Vikings become attentive to Solveig as well, bolstering her confidence and providing a means for the author to (ingeniously) integrate tales from Norse mythology, featuring gods Odin and Thor, supernatural creatures, and fallen warriors. In a page-turning climax, the fiord thaws and enemies arrive to overpower the berserkers and kidnap Harald. The ensuing battle and survival scenes are vividly portrayed, and characters fight back with the epic heroism of gods. Solveig is an empathetic heroine and Hake, the hulky berserker war chief, is also a well-developed and (eventually) endearing character. Fans of John Flanagan's "Ranger's Apprentice" series (Philomel) will enjoy this adventure tale.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Following his ambitious Victorian-era The Clockwork Three (2010), Kirby's second novel takes readers even deeper into history. In an attempt to keep his children safe while he wages war, a Viking chief sends beautiful Asa, heir-to-the-throne Harald, and overlooked Solveig to winter in a distant fortress along with a cadre of berserkers. While the ice-locked fjord provides a perfect safeguard from outside threats, it also becomes a prison when it's clear there's a traitor among them. Over the course of the brutal winter, Solveig learns the delicate art of storytelling from her father's skald ( the poet of the living past ) and also forms a bond of mutual affection with the most fearsome berserker of the bunch. Her stories provide comfort, distraction, and hope for the starving people, but are tested to the utmost when blood begins to spill. Both elegant and exciting, this work recalls Jonathan Stroud's Heroes of the Valley (2009) in its treatment of the lofty spot that lore occupies in a warrior society and how stories give meaning to both life and death.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.