Frostborn (Thrones & Bones # 1)
By Lou Anders (August 5th 2014, Crown Books for Young Readers)
12-year-old Karn is set to inherit his father’s large farm and become a hauld. But he has no interest in farming or trading, and would rather play a game of Thrones and Bones or travel the world.
On a trading trip with his father, he meets Thianna, a half-giant who is dealing with her own problematic past and feels excluded in her village of giants.
When Karn accidentally calls upon an After Walker – an undead warrior king – and Thianna’s mother’s mysterious past comes to haunt her, they must both leave everything they had ever know behind and flee into the snowy wilderness of Norrøngard.
Going into Frostborn, I was expecting a dense, world building-heavy high fantasy, but to my surprise and pleasure, it turned out to be something altogether different.
The most immediately striking thing about Frostborn is its modern sensibility, from the language to the dialogue to the fun humor. Every aspect was executed in a fresh and accessibly way, making it an ideal choice of young readers.
Anders created a world that is well realized and engaging, without weighing the reader down with dense description or overlong exposition. The history and lore were also perfectly integrated, adding depth and personality to this already complex world of frost giants, warriors, dwarves, and fabled dragons.
The characters – though not amazing – are fun and likable, especially Karn, who uses his intelligence and gaming skills to best his foes again and again. Thianna was also a nice addition: brave, brash, and unfailing loyal. I really look forward to seeing her evolution over the rest of the series.
Though there is nothing outright terrible about Frostborn, plot is definitely its Achilles’s heel. The beginning is good enough: light, breezy, and very funny, but the plot pretty much flatlines after the author is done setting up the world and characters. For a big chunk of the book, we see Karn and Thianna wandering in the wilderness (separately and together), going from small scrape to the next without any real purpose.
There were also a few too-convenient coincidences that undermine
d any sense of real
danger, and there was a very obvious bit of deceit that Karn took far too long
to see through, despite being very intelligent otherwise.
Another problem was character development, especially Thianna’s. It was clear that Anders had intended for both main characters to be equivalently important, but Karn was by far the more developed and despite its name (Frostborn later becomes Thianna’s last name), felt more like his story. I felt that Thianna’s backstory, which ironically seemed more interesting and mysterious than Karn’s, wasn’t developed enough, and her personal struggles didn’t feel as real as, either.
Fresh, imaginative, and well written, Frostborn is a solid choice for readers looking for a less dense, more accessible high fantasy without sacrificing any of the immersive qualities that make the genre so popular.
Get Frostborn on Book Depository
For more excellent MG book recommendations, go to Shannon Messenger's blog.
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