In Epheria, you are the predators. Here, you are the prey.
Almost four hundred years have passed since the fall of The Order. Four hundred years since the empire rose. Four hundred years since the last dragon egg hatched.
In the icy wasteland of Valacia, Aeson Virandr searches for the one thing that could turn the tide of hope.
But there is a reason no soul has ever returned from Valacia.
Hope comes at a cost, one that can only be paid in blood.
*This is a companion novella to The Bound and The Broken series, not a standalone novella. Previous books in the series should be read first.*
Hello again dear reader or listener, it is my pleasure today, to share a guest review on behalf of my good friend Callum T., who is just starting out as a reviewer; let’s give him a warm welcome. I’ll let his happy rambles sway you towards a series I’m personally very intrigued by!
Firstly, thanks to Ryan Cahill for letting me have an ARC for this brilliant book, I felt like a 5-year-old on Christmas when I found out. This is the first full book review I’ve written and I’m absolutely buzzing that I get to do it for this series, that has tugged on my heart strings, made me laugh, cry and feel all kinds of emotions that not many books or series have managed to. But also, please go easy on me if you do decide to read this, I’m new to it and fragile!
Before I get into the good stuff about the book, I also want to extend my thanks to my friend Eleni, for allowing me to guest review here. I hope I don’t ruin your reputation by being associated with this review!
Now, if you’ve made it through the preamble, I do have to warn you whilst (I hope) there aren’t spoilers, there will be references to characters, names and quotes that you may not want to know until you’ve read yourself.
If, for whatever reason, you haven’t been able to read the Bound and Broken series yet, I would absolutely recommend you do so. The series, so far, contains 3 books and 3 novellas including The Ice. There are a couple of recommended reading orders for the series, so I’d absolutely recommend you check that out before you start.
For context, the events of the The Ice happen in the build to the first book in the series (Of Blood and Fire). The beauty of the book is that it works fantastically read either before the start of the series, if you need that added context, or directly after Book 3 (Of War and Ruin). My preference would be the latter, Book 3, as the emotional journey of Aeson (the titular character) goes on really hits home after the gritty journey that he goes on in the The Ice.
‘To survive, is not to live.’
‘But they must first survive to live..’
Aeson is one my favourite character in the series so far, a man that has lost so much yet still finds the resolve to carry on through the hardship. I don’t always agree with Aeson’s actions, and I don’t always think he makes the best choices but more than ever after this book, I understand him more. I think that my favourite part, or rather theme, of The Ice is the relationship between Aeson and his two sons, Dahlen and Erik. The two sons that have given him the strength to carry on his journey. The book really brings you into Aeson’s perspective, his motives, his fears and the love he bears for his sons. Through the rollercoaster of events transpiring, the one thing that constantly resonated with me was his love for his sons. Despite him being the emotional equivalent of… (insert something witty)… well not very emotionally available is what we’ll go with.
The book starts amicably, not to its detriment mind, all for the purpose of building the motives and reasons behind the journey that needs to be undertaken. There are some delightful cameos from some old favourites of mine from other books in the series. I do indeed enjoy a good cameo. Then, the journey to the frozen land of Valacia. What awaits Aeson, his sons, his allies and others is a journey of danger, mystery and most importantly: hope. The story soon begins to pick up the pace as the journey begins, navigating the perils of the frozen land, where from which very few return. (Man I didn’t realise how difficult it is to write a review with no spoilers, so kudos to all of you who do this more often!)
I’m not going to lie, I don’t tend to get scared or feel fearful chills from books (I won’t go into how I can’t watch horror films here), but man I tell you… I started getting nervous. The various creatures/monsters, however you want to describe them, that were being referenced and alluded to really built up the sense of fear in me. But, not only that, it heightened the tension to no end. The sense of urgency and fear that resonated through Aeson’s mind felt like my own. Something I feel that Cahill does perfectly is make me feel like I am the character in so many different scenes. The imagery and feeling I get from his writing makes me really feel the stakes, the risks and the urgency the characters had in this book. Much to my own derision, I am not Aeson Virandr, but boy do I feel like I know him inside and out when reading his chapters. Not just in The Ice, but throughout the series as a whole.
As the book builds up steam, and progresses towards the climax, I felt the tension in the air around. The hopelessness at times, the inevitability of failure that some of the characters were feeling (despite the fact I already knew the outcome of the book!). But again, there was the resolve, the grit and determination from Aeson, failure is not an option here because it simply can’t be. This rubbed off onto other characters and you began to feel it from them too. A special character he is (in my best Yoda voice).
Somehow, despite there being a short break in high paced action for a small part of the later book, the quality and emotion of these chapters is not lost one bit. The kaleidoscope of feelings that is carefully weaved through these chapters is beautiful. Characters that I’ve never met before or have only briefly been aware of (I’m looking at you Malari) are making care for them in the space of mere pages. I think Cahill does this so well, characters that you’ve never met before, characters you have only seen briefly, you come to appreciate and love in earnest within a short space of time.
Then, the high-paced ending and bridge to Book 1 brings the book to an end. I just have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, as I have thoroughly enjoyed the series. Writing this review has been a delight, as I’ve loved recapturing my own feelings of this book as I went through it. Ryan Cahill is a master at weaving these characters into your heart and making you feel their feelings. It truly is a masterful skill – and it shines through in The Ice. I would absolutely recommend (again) this series to anyone who enjoys reading SFF. It’s a bit broad of a recommendation but I enjoy it that much. The Ice is really pushing to be my favourite entry in an already stellar series, where all the books have a fair claim to be in any Top 10 list I make for myself.
10/10 from me, Mr Cahill. Thank you for creating such a fantastic world for me to lose myself in and for writing about the part of that world I was most curious about!
Until next time,
Eleni A. E. & Callum T.