After going to another panel event at Waterstones Piccadilly (Fantasy and Folklore with Samantha Shannon, Melinda Salisbury and Lisa Luddecke) I decided to buy one of the books spoken about: A Shiver of Snow and Sky. It sounded right up my street with mention of the Northern Lights, folklore, superstitions…I was not disappointed.
Title: A Shiver of Snow and Sky – DEBUT NOVEL ALERT
Author: Lisa Luddecke
On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way. And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning. Seventeen years ago the sky turned red just as Osa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover what it means before so many lives are lost again.
Set on the fictional snowy island of Skane, the book follows best friends Ósa and Ivar in the aftermath of the red Lós (Northern Lights) presenting in the sky which signals the beginning of a plague and almost certain death. The friends also uncover a plot of invasion from the evil, almost Viking-esque, race called the Ør – who have a penchant for removing the heads of their victims and wearing their teeth as a necklace. Ivar takes it upon himself to help train all of the local villagers against the impending attack while Ósa decides to tackle the plague. She does this by riding across the country to the mountains to ask their Goddess in the stars for help and in the process she hopes to prove herself – both to herself and to the family who don’t love her as they should.
The plot is beautiful and a great premise for a book – I kind of wish I’d written it myself ;). The world Lisa has created is a very simple, ancient island society with cave writings, huts for houses and clothing made of furs and leathers the villagers have made for themselves. Superstitions and a belief in the stars and the Goddess they pray to is ingrained into their society. As the story progresses elements of magic is slowly woven into the narrative and it’s great. It’s a really nice touch and really shows the power and beauty of belief. The characters that are introduced become increasingly magical too including giants and these incredible kind of snow people who melt into the snow to hide from attackers. The story is very imaginative and has the potential for sequels which is very exciting.
The first quarter of the book is written in first person from Ósa’s point of view until she heads of on her lone adventure. After that, the story bounces from following her story and then checking back in with Ivar, telling his story in third person. I usually have difficulty with this technique. I find it annoying. However with this novel it actually took me a little while to notice that the POV had changed for the first time. The transition was almost seamless which was very impressive. It’s a brave artistic choice as it is, let alone for a debut author. I loved it.
We really got into the heads of the two main characters Ósa and Ivar through this storytelling. It turned into a really great literary device for watching two people realising their feelings and playing out two sides of the same narrative. Both of the characters were well developed. Ósa was a feisty, fierce badass who was incapable of giving up on herself and on her beliefs no matter what the island threw at her. Ivar was similarly determined. A little warrior with so much built in honour, and drive to do the right thing and to protect those around him. These characters are easy to take to your heart and I’d love to see them in another book.
This was a solid debut and if this is what Lisa Luddecke can give for her first ever novel, I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. We’re sure to be in for a treat.