Book review

The Empty Hand by Catherine Fisher (1995)

Part two of the Snow-Walker Trilogy

If you have read The Snow-Walker's Son you have already met the sorceress Gudrun. You will know that Kari Ragnarsson, who is the snow-walker's son, defeated his foul mother Gudrun, in a confrontation where he rivalled her sorcerous strength. But one thing is crystal clear from their meeting - they look alike and they share their magical powers, but they are opposites. Kari refuses to use his powers against others, and he treasures the few friends that he has around him.

In the second book of this powerful trilogy Gudrun has returned to the land of the snow-walkers, far in the north, beyond the boundaries of natural knowledge. But she cannot leave Kari alone. She constructs a sending, a rune-beast assembled from shadows and darkness. It knows nothing except Gudrun's will. She sends it on a journey to the Jarlshold, to seek out Kari. On the way it hunts and feeds and grows in strength. It hunts men. The people of the Jarlshold are paralysed with fear.

What will Wulfgar, the new Jarl do? And who will he take advice from? Will he rely on his proven friends from his old outlaw days? Or will he listen to the weasel words of his new adviser, Vidar the Freyrspriest? Distrust grows in everyone's hearts:

...'Of course Wulfgar trusts you.'
'No, Jessa.' He gripped his fingers tight together. 'Vidar is turning him against me. I know that, I can see it, the fine threads of mistrust that he's spinning, like a web over this hold. It began long ago, before you came, before we came.'
'That's nonsense,' Brochael said gruffly.
'No, it isn't. Think about it, Broachael! To Vidar, I'm the pale approaching danger. I'm Gudrun's son. I was the last Jarl's son. He wants Wulfgar to see me as a threat.'
Jessa clenched her fists without noticing. 'But Wulfgar knows you!'
'Does he?' He turned his strange, colourless eyes fiercely on her. 'None of you know me, really! Sometimes I don't think I know myself, what I might do. This is her curse, remember, that you'll never quite trust me, that I might turn on you as she did.' He looked away bleakly. 'And I might! I can feel it in myself.'

Can Jessa and Brochael and Skapti the poet keep faith with their old friends, Kari and Wulfgar, through the perils of Gudrun's sorcery?

Another enthralling episode in The Snow-Walker Trilogy. Not for the faint-hearted.

What can I read next?

It's a trilogy. Read it in order:

What else matches this powerful magic? You could have a look at this one by Garth Nix:

Or this appalling story of treachery and sorcery by Lian Hearn:

You might enjoy this story set in the year 2000 which deals with ancient mystery and magic. It's by Jan Mark:

How about a bit of David Almond? I think you might enjoy anything by this author:

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