The Cry of the Icemark a.k.a My All Time Favourite Novel (excluding all of the Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia books).
Recently when discussing my 21st birthday party (still not until next year, but whatever) with my mum, the topic of favourite books came up. The idea is that for my birthday if someone asks what present I want I’m going to say, “If you want to buy me something, then buy me your favourite book”. Yep, it’s gonna be awesome.
So my mum’s favourite book would be ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, and mine? Yep, you guessed it. ‘The Cry of the Icemark‘. Now I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most people (if there are any) who are reading this have no idea what book I’m talking about.
Written by Stuart Hill, it was published in 2005, and the only reason I ever read it is because of my mum (look Ma, I’m going to tell the story). She found it in the book department of Myer in Sydney (in 2006 I think) and asked if I wanted her to buy it for me. Being as stubborn and difficult as I could be when I was about 13, I told her ‘no’. She bought it anyway because she wanted to read it herself.
Months later I actually did read it. I don’t remember what made me pull it off our bookshelf, but I do remember how quickly I read it, and how much I loved it.
Now if you haven’t read the book (and maybe plan to) I would just like to warn you, there be spoilers ahead!
So the general gist of the novel is that the kingdom of the Icemark is under threat of war, and its fate rests of the shoulders of 13 year-old Princess (turned Queen) Thirrin Freer Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield. She needs to pull together as many allies as she can to ensure her people’s survival. The allies she befriends include witches, werewolves, vampires, and giant snow leopards. Giant snow leopards that can talk.
What isn’t to love about that?
The thing about this story, as a 13 year-old girl reading a story about a 13 year-old girl, is that I really related to some of the things Thirrin, Wildcat of the North, was going through. Sure I don’t live in a medieval society, and I’m definitely not royalty, but I got embarrassed easily and felt like there was a lot expected of me when it came to my education and my future.
While it might not be the most amazing book in regards to the way it is written, Thirrin’s story will always have a place in my heart. It got me interested in books set in medieval sort of settings, stories about war and the hardships that come with them, tales about magic and supernatural creatures. I have read it nearly every year since my mum bought it. I notice more things with each reading, and to be honest, I love it just as much every time.
I don’t really want to harp on about the details too much in case people haven’t read it, so I’ll leave you now with one of my favourite quotes. It comes from Thirrin’s best friend and royal advisor (and future husband), the warlock Oskan. It comes after this line from Thirrin to the King of the werewolves.
“Before I set off on this journey, King Grishmak, I would ask you to give shelter to Oskan the Warlock until I return, or…” she said, after a brief pause, “until I don’t return.”
The changed form of his name momentarily shocked Oskan into silence, but he quickly recovered and exploded angrily, “If you dare try to leave me behind I’ll follow on foot, and when I die in the snow I’ll come back and haunt you. I’ll make your life a complete misery. No ghost will ever have been as inventive in its nastiness as I’ll be: I’ll turn your food rancid; I’ll transform your drink into blood; I’ll howl and moan throughout the night; there’ll be no place safe from me. And don’t think I couldn’t do it, Thirrin, Queen of Icemark, because I can assure you, I could.” – p. 275