Book review

The Snow-Walker's Son by Catherine Fisher (1993)

Part one of the Snow-Walker Trilogy

What's more scary, something you can see, or something you can't see?

Gudrun is a sorceress. She reaches into men's minds. She knows their thoughts, and their fears. When she marries Ragnar and sets him up as the new Jarl, discontent and fear run through the local people, but not many stand up to her. She is evil beyond imagining, winding her snake-charm round their hearts and minds.

But Gudrun has her weakness. When she bears Ragnar's son, she only needs to take one look at him before banishing him to a forbidding underground prison, reeking, silent and freezing. And there he stays for six years. No one knows what she has borne, but Jessa and Thorkil are about to find out:

'You've been here longer than I have. What do they say here about Kari Ragnarsson?'
'Nothing. No one dares.' Thorkil dropped his voice. 'Besides, no one has ever seen him, except the woman who was there when he was born. She died a few days later. They say Gudrun poisoned her.'
Jessa nodded. 'Yes, but there are rumours ...'
'The same as you've heard.' Thorkil edged nearer to the fire. 'She kept him locked up here somewhere, in a windowless room. He has a pelt of fur like a troll. He tears his skin with his teeth in his fits. Others say he has eyes like a wolf. There are plenty of stories. Who knows which is true? Now she keeps him in the ruin called Thrasirshall. They say it's at the edge of the world, far out in the snowfields. No one has ever been there.'

Jessa and Thorkil are about to be punished for the crimes of their fathers. Their fathers were both loyal to the rightful Jarl, before Gudrun joined with Ragnar and laid her cold finger on the people of the Jarlshold. But the fathers of Jessa and Thorkil are both dead, and the children are now banished, by order of Gudrun, to the ancient, icy fastness of Thrasirshall.

The thought of what they will find there petrifies them. What kind of monster is Kari Ragnarsson? Does he survive in the perishing cold and bitter conditions of the northern wastes?

One other was banished to Thrasirshall with Kari. Brochael Gunnarsson was meant to be Kari's keeper. What has become of him? Perhaps neither of them survives. And how can Jessa and Thorkil hope to survive in such a forsaken place?

I thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy. The mounting menace kept me turning the pages late into the night. Highly recommended!

What can I read next?

It's a trilogy. Read it in order:

Excellent story. Excellent writing. Thoroughly frightening. Thoroughly believable, even if it is wild magic. Want to read something else like it? Have a look at these by Garth Nix:

Or this ghastly tale by Lynne Reid Banks. Don't blame me if you can't sleep at night:

There is this utterly compelling story by Lian Hearn, of magic, loyalty and appalling treachery :

Or, there is the brilliant His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman:

You might like to look at Melvin Burgess's reworking of a collection of old Icelandic sagas:

Or this very spooky tale by Susan Price:

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