The Secret Ministry of Frost by Nick Lake
|The Secret Ministry of Frost by Nick Lake|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A blend of present adventure and Inuit mythology make this a real page-turning adventure, and there's a rather spiffing female central character to boot. This will appeal greatly to late primary and early secondary children, particularly those who like their fantasies rooted in the real world.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: March 2009|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster|
Albino, unusually-named, half-Inuit, half-Irish and owner of an enormous estate, nobody could call Light a run-of-the-mill child. But things are about to get considerably more unusual for this newly-orphaned girl. With a father mysteriously missing in the Arctic for long enough to be declared dead and a funeral to organise, you would think she had enough on her plate. But within days, she's been followed by a mysterious man, attacked by a rogue bird of prey in her own garden, survived a kidnap attempt by men with cat's eyes, rescued by another man with the head of a shark, and entered into a death-pact with a shadow that's two hundred years old. And that's not to mention an old family retainer who appears to know more than he's letting on...
... Time for a trip to the Arctic to face the evil Frost and find her father, then!
Ah, how can you not love a title that comes from Coleridge, that master of extremes? I just knew I would like The Secret Ministry of Frost from the moment I saw it. And I did. Light is a marvellous central character. She's brave, bold and clever, and she conquers her fears, just as all good heroes do in books for children. Making her an albino and then tying it in to the storyline was an absolute stroke of genius. Lake drops enough clues for you to be waiting for the reveal, but not enough that you know too early what it will be.
The Arctic comes alive in vivid, tactile descriptions, and these provide the perfect backdrop for an understanding of the Inuit culture and the aggression and violence of much of its mythology. In a land where nothing grows, you have no choice but to kill in order to eat. It's a harsh environment and it makes for harsh lives, and harsh stories too. But this understanding is fleshed out through a pacy narrative with plenty of fights and chases, and because of this The Secret Ministry of Frost will appeal equally to junior lovers of adventure, fantasy, and mythology. I can see it selling very well indeed.
Frost and his cohorts are truly and spine-chillingly monstrous. I wouldn't like to meet them on a summer's day in Devon, let alone during the Arctic six month night, but the nightmarish apparations are nicely balanced by a dollop of deadpan humour - There are no men. If there are, I will bite them - and there are moments in the book when they are sorely needed. There's also some depth to the modern-day research - Light's father disappeared when he was dropping iron filings in the sea, in the hopes of reducing CO2 levels - something scientists are currently trying to do.
The Secret Ministry of Frost has a great deal to offer, I think, and I'm recommending it heartily to all keen readers from about eleven and up.
My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.
There are so many places children who enjoyed The Secret Ministry of Frost could look next. Philip Pullman has created an equally wonderful vision of the Arctic, of course. Ancient Appetites by Oisin McGann has a Victorian but parallel world setting like Pullman, but I think it would appeal. Troll Blood by Katherine Langrish is about a Viking boy, but it blends mythology and the real world to wonderful effect. The flashes of deadpan humour remind me of Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Ministry of Frost by Nick Lake at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Ministry of Frost by Nick Lake at Amazon.com.
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