Ice Land: A Novel

( 9 )


A beautiful epic of love, longing, redemption, and enchantment in the tradition of Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon

Iceland, AD 1000
Freya knows that her people are doomed. Warned by the Fates of an impending disaster, she must embark on a journey to find a magnificent gold necklace, one said to possess the power to alter the course of history. But even as Freya travels deep into the mountains of Iceland, the country is on the brink ...

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Ice Land: A Novel

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A beautiful epic of love, longing, redemption, and enchantment in the tradition of Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon

Iceland, AD 1000
Freya knows that her people are doomed. Warned by the Fates of an impending disaster, she must embark on a journey to find a magnificent gold necklace, one said to possess the power to alter the course of history. But even as Freya travels deep into the mountains of Iceland, the country is on the brink of war. The new world order of Christianity is threatening the old ways of Iceland's people, and tangled amidst it all are two star-crossed lovers who destiny draws them together-even as their families are determined to tear them apart

Infused with the rich history and mythology of Iceland, Betsy Tobin's sweeping novel is an epic adventure of forbidden love, lust, jealousy, faith and magical wonder set under the shadow of a smoldering volcano.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Tobin's second novel (after Bone House) is set in Iceland, A.D. 1000, just as Christianity is taking a foothold and the volcano Hekla is growing restive. In this slick re-imagining of Norse myth, humans, dwarves, giants and gods differ superficially but suffer life's trials equally and are susceptible to love, loss, violence and even the weather. The central character, Freya, is an Aesir (a god), who is essentially human but for her ability to fly and her address: she notes that her kind "occupy the space that men create for something larger than themselves." (In Freya's case, she occupies "the tainted realm of love.") Among numerous subplots, Freya's story follows her quest for a powerful gold necklace, the Brisingamen, accompanied by a love-torn human teenager named Fulla. Tobin's rich understanding of the source material, backed up by deft historical touches-beds made of moss and skins, turf-roofed houses, earthenware cups-brings the narrative to life. Though women take center stage, Tobin sketches the thoughts of both male and female characters with skill. With an introspective dwarf, the god Odin and a fearsome band of giants, Tobin has this one aimed squarely at the Mists of Avalon audience, and she hits big. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Tobin (Bone House, 2001) combines Norse mythology, the coming of Christianity and a forbidden love story in a lyrical but overstuffed tribute to Icelandic history. The author juggles multiple narrative strands, sometimes confusingly or predictably. Freya, Norse goddess of love, falls under the spell of a miraculous, "too precious" golden necklace fashioned by the Brising dwarves (shades of Tolkien). Meanwhile, 16-year-old Fulla, an orphan whose father died in a feud, is approaching marriageable age but has secretly fallen for Vili, the son of her father's killer. While the ancient witnesses, the Norns, keep watch on Iceland's volcanic lands, Freya's negotiations for the necklace oblige her to accompany Dvalin, the most attractive of the dwarves, on a journey to find a remedy for his sister's infertility, which leads to further adventures and magic. Freya gains the necklace for a while, until it is stolen by Odin, king of the gods. He uses it to force Freya to kidnap Fulla, who has been fending off betrothals to men she doesn't love and who is really Odin's daughter. While Fulla is with Freya, Vili is accepted by her family and rejects his own, allowing Vili and Fulla finally to unite. A vast volcanic eruption lays waste the land, but Freya regains the necklace and saves Dvalin. The couple will become human and have children. And Christianity sweeps into Iceland. Large themes translated into a choppy, conventional, romantic but readable tangle of stories. Agent: Kim Witherspoon/InkWell Management
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452295698
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/25/2009
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,450,018
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.05 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Betsy Tobin was born in the United States and moved to England in 1989. She lives in London with her husband and four children.

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Read an Excerpt

When I was sixteen, I was given a cloak made entirely of feathers. It was made from pale grey falcon wings, unthinkably soft, with no more weight than a handful of ash. I remember the sensation as Odin first laid the cloak across my shoulders. His hands brushed too long against my skin, but even as I noticed this, something else was happening deep inside me: a sudden narrowing, as if I was being squeezed from within. In an instant, I too felt weightless, and in another second I was airborne. I looked down to see them all staring up at me: my father, his expression vexed with disapproval; my twin brother Freyr, his dark eyes pools of envy; Odin’s wife, her smile frozen with complacency (surely she must have seen his lingering caress?). And Odin himself, staring too intently with his one good eye, as if he could divine all the secrets of my adolescence. With relief, I turned my gaze from them and flew towards the horizon, the wind rushing at my face. And for the first time in my life, I felt free. At sixteen, I’d not yet learned that it takes more than wings to release one from the bonds of kinship.

They say this island sprang from the armpit of a giant. That his sweat turned to rivers which in turn begot the land. It is a jagged place, scarred by ice and fire, and perpetually torn by pale green rivers that refuse to stay their course. Long ago, the forests were thick here. Wild beasts stood quietly, as if waiting to be shot. That was before men came and culled them, using broad axes and fine-tipped arrows. Now trees are scarce and the animals hide, but the land remains generous. Each spring, the farmers toil in the fields to clear lumps thrown up by frost. In summer, they drive their herds deep into the highlands, where the grass is sweet and the sun never dies. In winter, darkness descends upon us like a shroud. Men wrap themselves in furs, huddle around fires, and tell stories from the past.

Water surrounds us. To the north, the frozen sea is but one day’s sail. To the south, the long fingers of Norway and Denmark are eight days’ journey. The sea offers us food and protection, but takes many lives in return. Despite its peril, the men here are of a wandering nature. They look to the horizon and refuse to let it lie. But they always return, if the sea or the sword does not claim them, for this island pulls on its people. Once settled they are bound, both by its beauty and its harshness.

I was not born here. I left the land of my birth as a young girl, and came to dwell in Asgard with my father and brother. We were a peace offering, my family and I, a gesture of conciliation between the Aesir and the Vanir, my father’s people. My father was already a widower, saddled with the burden of two young children, so he had nothing to lose by throwing his lot in with the Aesir. In return, they made us certain promises. Njord, my father, was given control of the seas. Freyr, my brother, was given control of the harvests. And I was left with the tainted realm of love.

Over time, I’ve come to represent love’s failings. Men and women turn to me in equal numbers. They bring their broken engagements, their shabby infidelities, their star-crossed romances, their spent marriages, their unrequited passions, in hopes that I will have a cure. Sometimes I do. More often I do not. For what they don’t know is that our world is an elaborate conceit. The gods have no real influence over the lives of men. We are nothing but totems: we occupy the space that men create for something larger than themselves. Few who dwell in Asgard understand this. Fewer still would admit to it. But false belief underpins us all.

And, as for the sharp spear of love, it too is a deceit. Long ago, in another life, I was wounded by its impact. Now I know that solitude and self-reliance make far more loyal bedfellows. Though I’ve been married once before, now my bond is to the earth and the sky and the mountains that surround me. My home, Sessruminger, lies in the south of Asgard, snugly in the lee of Mount Hekla. Her vast glacial peak rises up behind me like the imposing neck of a triumphant queen. Hekla’s moods can be capricious: one moment she is stark, calm, majestic; the next wild, dark and menacing. But I am thankful for her presence, for it is she who orients me when I take to the skies, and she who brings me back to earth. My tale starts and ends with Hekla, and I will tell it as it happens, in the manner of the bards.

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Customer Reviews

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( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 4, 2011

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    Downloaded a Review to My Nook But It Was Only 1 Paragraph Long!

    Not sure if I'm going to buy this book yet, since I downloaded a 'preview' to my Nook and found the preview was only one paragraph long! What is the deal with that? Is this a mistake? That's not enough material to get a feel for the book. A preview should be several pages long, or even a full chapter.

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  • Posted April 12, 2010

    Ice Land's Never Been So Hot!

    Betsy Tobin takes Icelandic myth and weaves her own twist into the tales. Capturing the beautiful and violent country side of Iceland she tells a story that combines Gods and humans and turns myth into a touchable tapestry. Her tale centers around two women, Fulla- a young girl being raised by her grandfather, and Freyja a "Goddess" of love and Magic on a quest to save the world from a prophesy foretelling Ragnorok- the end of the world. From the moment you open the book it will suck you into its world. Betsy does use a lot of historical mythology in her writing and it is helpful if you know a little bit of the Lore and culture of Iceland centuries ago, however, it is a book that can be just as enjoyable with out any of that knowledge. This one will be one that I share with many friends.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

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    I was attracted to this myth-based story for two reasons: first, because it drew from Norse mythology, whose gods - as well as those Greeks and Romans - still influence us today.

    The names of the days of the week, for example, come from Teutonic and Scandinavian mythology (Friday, for instance, was named for Freya [Freya's Day]), and second, because it was attached to the history of Iceland, which fascinates me. The two women and their parallel stories are compelling: Fulla, an Icelandic maiden struggling between marrying the man her father has chosen or Vili, an outsider he forbids her and the love story of Freya (even goddesses have trouble with love) who seeks a powerful gold necklace crafted by the heroic Dvalin, one of the Norns who live in underground caves. Affecting them all is the mighty volcano Hekla who can blow at any moment. Too dense to attempt a summary, but dense enough to support readers' discussion, Ms. Tobin creates a rich tapestry of Iceland, deftly weaving its historic threads with its mythological ones. Iceland is thoroughly enjoyable.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

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    This is an exciting Nordic historical romantic fantasy

    In 1000 AD in Iceland, Freya the Aesir goddess of love seeks a gold necklace created by the Brising dwarves that the Fates warn her can change history. At seemingly the same time sixteen year old orphan Fulla has fallen in love with Vili, whose father killed her father. Meanwhile also apparently at the identical moments, the Norns observe increasingly dangerous volcanic activity especially by Hekla that looks ready to explode.

    Freya works a deal with the dwarves for the necklace in exchange for escorting their leader Dvalin in a quest to cure his sister's infertility. She actually obtains the necklace, but Odin steals it from her. Odin uses the necklace to extort Freya into kidnapping Fulla, who is his daughter; Fulla's human family accepts Vili into their clan as her husband. Hekla erupts destroying much of the surrounding area, but also enables Freya to regain the necklace and rescue Dvalin.

    This is an exciting Nordic historical romantic fantasy that use Norse mythology to tell the tale of forbidden loves at a time when Christianity has come to the island. Although the two major subplots can prove difficult at times to follow as perspective rotates frequently, sub-genre fans will relish Betsy Tobin's terrific tale of love conquers all even a legendary God.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted July 2, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    "'I don't believe in fate.' 'Maybe it believes in you,' she said."

    ICE LAND is an undemanding, modest effective little historical novel. The world-historical turning points (in the sense developed by Sir Walter Scott, founder of the genre) behind this historical novel are the coming of Christianity from Norway to Iceland and the compromise Iceland's leaders accepted to allow adherents of "the old faith" (in Odin and the Norse gods) to exercise liberty of conscience -- privately. ***

    The author, Betsy Tobin, like Sir Walter Scott before her, knows her Norse legends and literature, and puts an original spin on her themes. Thus she places Asgard, home of Odin, Freya and other gods, not in the sky but in Iceland too close for comfort to Mount Hekla, a still active volcano in the south of the island. In the minds of many Europeans, Hekla was counted (along with Italy's Stomoboli) one of the two principal entrances to Hell. In the novel, the Norns, three goddesses of past, present and future, representing fate, function both as chorus and geologists. From time to time the Norns dispassionately explain the geological history of Iceland in terms of modern tectonic plate theory -- something the actors of the story could not, of course, possibly know. The Norns chorus thus links present and past, sciene and myth. ***

    Another fascinating touch to Icelandic history and religion by Betsy Tobin is to make dwarves, giants, gods and "just folk" seem a credible part of the landscape. They all belong to different tribes. The leading male character, master artisan Dvalin had, for example, a dwarf father and a flying "swan maiden" goddess mother. His attraction to and repulsion from the Aedir (god tribe) sex bomb Freya in many ways drives the novel. A secondary theme is Freya's mad passion to possess a beautiful bracelet, Brisingamen. She acquires the necklace in exchange for nights in their bed with each of the four brothers who had crafted the great gem. ***

    Politically, the Icelanders, many of whom had only sailed over in the last thirty years, are united in their desire to stay independent of King Olaf of Norway, who wants to Christianize them. If things get too un-libertarian for their taste, Icelanders can always move to Greenland or Vinland. ***

    Religion, like everything else in the novel, is very concrete. Freya for example, simply makes a house call and consults the Norn Skuld while the latter is busy at her loom. From Skuld Freya gets the hint that will lead her to possess the incomparable necklace Brisingamen after winning over the four dwarves who had created it. ***

    This novel is neither profound nor intended to be. It is all smooth surfaces and easy reading. ICE LAND is a pleasant way to ease into further personal, individualized study of Icelandic history, religion, myths and politics. Maps and a topical index would make a great addition. -OOO-

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