Frostfire: A good MG adventure with lots of derring-do

Frostfire by Jamie Smith science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsFrostfire by Jamie Smith science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsFrostfire by Jamie Smith

Frostfire (2019), by Jamie Smith, is a middle-grade fantasy set in the mountainous land of Adranna. Adranna lies in the shadow of the great peak of Aderast, and all of its magic comes from the shimmering glacier that flows from it. A handful of young people are chosen each year to climb to the glacier and claim a small piece of it, a frostsliver, which gives them special abilities and marks them as people of importance in Adranna’s society.

Sabira is a fourteen-year-old girl who has been chosen to receive a frostsliver. The novel opens as she is making her climb. The narrative then flashes back to the previous year, when Sabira’s brother Kyran was chosen. Tensions have been growing with the neighboring nation of Ignata, and after an Ignatian raiding party attacked Sabira’s family, everything started going wrong for Kyran. Now he is missing, and Sabira is determined to succeed for both his sake and her own.

Frostfire by Jamie Smith science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews

It won’t be easy, though — an avalanche strikes Aderast and cuts Sabira off from the rest of the world. Now she must survive the mountain’s harsh conditions and find a way back home, while alone and injured and working with a magic she doesn’t yet understand. What follows is an exciting, grueling adventure tale. The Ignatian threat has a role to play too, as does Kyran’s mysterious fate.

The conflict between Adranna and Ignata is more nuanced than one might expect from children’s fiction. The Ignatian leader is a bad guy, but it’s clear that not all of Ignata’s citizens, or even all of the army, agree with his methods. And the Ignatians’ anger is rooted in a real problem that will need to be dealt with if a peace is to be achieved. What Sabira learns on her journey might help her shape both countries’ futures when she is older, if she can make it back alive.

I sometimes had trouble visualizing where locations were, in relation to each other. My copy was an ARC, so maybe there will be a map in the finished book. I also have some questions about geology that probably qualify as “overthinking it.”

I recommend Frostfire to middle-grade readers looking for a good adventure with lots of derring-do. The setting and magic are unique, the family relationships are touching, and the heroine is inspiring.

Published in the UK in 2018 and in the US in October 2019. On Choosing Day, children of Adranna who reach the age of fourteen are finally eligible to undergo the tests to determine if they are worthy of bonding a Frostsliver. Only one in a hundred are destined to succeed. If chosen, they will have to climb to the top of the glacier and cut a piece off for themselves, so that they may be granted the powers they’ve always dreamed of. When Sabira is chosen, an entire world of possibilities opens up to her. But in order to see it through, she’ll have to embark on a dangerous pilgrimage to the top of the glacier. When a huge avalanche traps her on the glacier and destroys the pass, she must face up to the merciless mountain — but there are dark and fiery secrets hiding in its depths…

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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2 comments

  1. Is Ignata’s magic volcanic in origin?

    I don’t think I’ve seen glacier-magic before. This sounds like a cool idea — no pun intended.

  2. Jana Nyman /

    Ooh, this sounds fun!

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