Freshman English Period 3
18 April 2014
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
It is imperative that Icefall, recipient of an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery, by Matthew J. Kirby be required reading for 9th grade students because of the striking imagery, atypical setting, engulfing plot and bold and dynamic characters it has to offer.
In Icefall Matthew J. Kirby employs sharp mental images and senses to appeal to a wide variety of audiences. According to School Library Journal, “In a page-turning climax… 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.” Brilliant imagery and striking scenery are also called out on Booklist when it states “The episodic plot and atmospheric setting make this a challenging title to narrate.” It is evident from these reviews that Icefall has a well-described, vibrant setting and is has a thrilling and unexpected plot.
It is essential to a child’s learning for them to understand the importance of a good setting and descriptive imagery. Good setting must appeal to the senses and describe the scene well. For a book to be deemed good literature, it must possess a vibrant description of setting to help place the reader into the setting described in the book. The plot must not only contain events that are not foreshadowed in the book and must be eventful so as not to bore the reader.
Multiple reviews are available on Icefall from various companies. Publishers Weekly says “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.” It can be interpreted from this review that the book has elements of both mystery and adventure. Solveig learns a lesson in the book to find what she is good at rather than being judged on an uncontrollable trait.
As indicated in the passage above, it highlights “Kirby’s attention to detail and stark description make this an effective mood piece.” Most of this description and detail is towards setting, creating a descriptive setting that almost feels real. Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books says “Kirby masterfully interweaves the familiar aspects of Solveig’s coming of age with a taut, compelling mystery and survival story that fans of both fantasy and historical fiction will find utterly appealing. . . There’s an arctic bite that permeates even the most mundane of scenes, making the ominous setting a character in its own right, while the inclusion of several Nordic myths complete the icy picture. Readers will be left thinking about this one long after the chill has left their bones.”
Kirkus Reviews reads, “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.” You can easily tell from this evaluation of the book that it is sufficiently challenging for high school students, as Kirkus clearly recommends the book to teens in the last line of the review.
Words in these reviews such as ominous, claustrophobic, and vivid offer an idea as to how the book’s setting is well-described, uses a broad variety of vocabulary and vivid imagery. Nancy Farmer, a Newbery Award-winning author says “Against an authentic backdrop