Blue Fire and Ice (The Land) by Alan Skinner
|Blue Fire and Ice (The Land) by Alan Skinner|
|Reviewer: Kimberly Saunders|
|Summary: A promising start to a new series, Alan Skinner's debut novel will enchant lovers of fantasy.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: October 2009|
|Publisher: Sibling Press|
When I come face to face with a debut fantasy novel, I am usually both a little excited as well as filled with a slight sense of dread. All too often new writers are disappointing and knowing that the book comes from a small, independent publisher my apprehension grows. This time, however, I was quite pleasantly rewarded with not only a truly original storyline, but a well crafted plot with rounded characters. Even the book's construction reflects the love and attention that Alan Skinner and his brothers and sisters at Sibling Press put into this effort.
Aimed at the young adult market, the story takes place in a locale known only as The Land by its inhabitants. Long ago, Beadles and Myrmidots came to The Land via a mountain pass that is all but forgotten. There they encountered the Muddles, and the three races settled equably, each in their own township, and worked in co-operation to the benefit of each other. The Myrmidots are known for their inventiveness and skills in engineering, the Beadles for their skill in, well, bureaucracy and order. The Muddles grow coffee and, due to their very nature, create disorder.
For, every now and again, without warning, Muddles become muddled up, swapping body parts with other Muddles as a transformation temporarily takes hold. Likewise, their views on who can have a job is not bound by reason or talent, but by desire and effort of will. So it is, that when a mysterious blue fire begins burning down parts of Beadledom, the Beadles send for help. For the fire cannot be quenched with water, and the flames remain in the ground, burning whatever else is placed upon the spot. Who is setting these fires, how can they combat it, and why are they doing it?
Young Brian, the factotum from Beadledom, is sent out on the quest to obtain the help and find the answers. Encountering a Muddle ballerina who cannot dance, a musician who cannot play, a fireman who is entranced by fire, an engineer whose genius is only matched by her reticence and loneliness, the task seems to get more and more impossible for young Brian to fulfil. Faced with ever more devastating fires, personal hardships, and unexpected results from their investigations, can the young people learn to approach each other's differences with appreciation and survive in the desolate mountain passes where their quest takes them to face a formidable and unknown enemy from beyond The Land? An enemy bent on nothing less than total destruction...
So much of this book could have slid into the patently absurd, but Alan Skinner manages to make this world seem altogether real and coherent despite its unlikeliness. Skinner is not aiming for the merely incongruous as each section of this society has a very important function to play in order to complete the whole that is The Land. His storytelling skills ensnare the reader, giving a sense of urgency to the act of turning the page to find out what happens next. While standing satisfyingly complete on its own, it is a welcome beginning to a new series that hopefully will live up to the vivid promise this book gives.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
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