A Cavern of Black Ice: Original, long and… bitterly cold

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review J.V. Jones A Cavern of Black IceA Cavern of Black Ice by J.V. Jones

While I await my copy of the third book of Sword of Shadows, A Sword from Red Ice, I’m re-reading the first two books of what may be my all time favorite epic series. For A Cavern of Black Ice, which I first read back in 2000, it’s my third reading and it’s still just as much fun and exciting as the first time.

I’ve read all of J.V. Jones’s books and I’ve enjoyed every one of them. The Book of Words Trilogy and The Barbed Coil are both good stories that have a cozy kinda feel to them that only adds to the entertainment value.

But this Sword of Shadows series takes Ms. Jones to a whole new level. She creates her worlds for the reader by bringing you home to it with little local details that introduce the most interesting cultures. And she has gift for creating characters that are truly endearing. Plus, there’s no watering-down of the action, which some fantasy writers have a tendency to do.

However, what separates this work from the masses is that J.V. Jones is a great story-teller. There are a lot of good authors out there, but not all of them are great story-tellers. It’s that quality that’s needed to get to the top of the heap for genre fiction. Like a master chef, Ms. Jones, knows just what ingredients go together and just the right amount of spice to use. I think it’s an injustice to the fantasy genre, that Sword of Shadows doesn’t get the notoriety of the other well-known epics like those by George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Steven Erikson.

~Greg Hersom


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review J.V. Jones A Cavern of Black IceA Cavern of Black Ice is the first part of the story of Raif Severance, a young exiled clansman, and Asharia “Ash” March, the runaway step-daughter of a city’s sorcerer-lord. Their stories begin separately but merge into one, as Ash — inside of whom a massive, frightening power is building — must reach the legendary Cavern, the only place where Ash can discharge the power without breaching the world of the damned. The story thus becomes a race against time and the merciless elements of Jones’ northern lands.

J.V. Jones deserves credit for painting such a different landscape: stark, vivid, and breathtakingly cold. Breath instantly condenses to ice crystals on fur-lined hoods; eyelids freeze shut in the night; and wounds and frostbite… it’s all very intense, to say the least. Some may find all of this engaging; others may find it an exercise in shock-value. Personally, a bit of each appears to be true.

Jones writes with a brutal power of description, frequently employing creative and graphic similes which sometimes work and sometimes are just too over the top. The book is very long and could have been shortened without much loss, and some parts are confusing and need a bit more explanation of the history and powers involved. (And some are simply designed to bait hooks for the next volume.) The supporting characters and villagers — they, their names and voices never quite find a comfortable niche, falling somewhere between medieval Scots and American hillbillies. Though often described in detail, the main characters themselves are not especially unique (with the exception of Magdalena Crouch, assassin), yet you find yourself caring for the young heroes, alone in the deadly wilderness on their desperate quest.

A solid, graphic, often gripping effort, yet one that demands significant time and attention and seems to require much more reading for an appreciable payoff. Recommended for mature, hard-core fantasy readers.

~Rob Rhodes


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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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ROB RHODES was graduated from The University of the South and The Tulane University School of Law and currently works as a government attorney. He has published several short stories and is a co-author of the essay “Sword and Sorcery Fiction,” published in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading. In 2008, Rob was named a Finalist in The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Rob retired from FanLit in September 2010 after more than 3 years at FanLit. He still reviews books and conducts interviews for us occasionally. You can read his latest news at Rob's blog.

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