Six word description? How about seven words? A line from the book:
To suspect one is to suspect all.
Aaaah! What can I say? This is one of the most amazing books I've read in a long while.
Solveig is the king's middle child. Her sister Asa is the beautiful one. Everyone admires her. Her little brother is the heir to the throne. Everyone adores him. But she is just Solveig. And all she wants is to make her father proud. When the king goes to war, he sends the royal children to an ice fortress for protection with his most trusted servants. But when the fjord freezes them in from invaders, have they locked a traitor inside with them? Who out of all the people Solveig has grown up with and trusts possibly be the traitor?
This book is probably set in a Nordic or viking tribe. I'm not very good at history, but I kind of figured that's where it was set because of the references to Odin, Thor, and other related gods.
The plot was amazing. Tension everywhere. Even though the characters were physically icebound and not moving, the story moved fast. I know it's supposed to work that way. But it just feels strange and amazing that a story can do that after reading so much fantasy in which movement of the plot partly relies on progress in the traveler's physical journey.
The mystery of who is the traitor, was developed well. I admit, the answer was somewhat expected in ways. But the whole book was so well written, every word so calculated and weighed, that sometimes it was hard to tell. And even if you knew, you could excuse Solveig for not knowing without thinking her stupid.
The king's skald, or storyteller, joins them in their hall and so it was very interesting to see how Kirby weaved stories of viking lore (stories about Thor, Loki, Fenrir, etc.) into the book. Solveig becomes the skald's, Alric's, apprentice. I loved reading her thoughts on stories and storytelling.
To go with the stories. The use of symbolism was everywhere. Oh, I loved it! How it was done and used. Wonderful. Solveig's end interpretation of wolves and stories and,- ah! You must read it.
The characters. I love the characters. So much. I have never seen a book with such a clear change in almost all the main cast.
I'll give you some of my favorite.
"In life the hardest decisions often have to be made more than once. But each time, it gets easier." -Ole
I liked Ole. He was very human. He's intelligent and merciful. He's quiet and sees what others don't.
"Never trust a storyteller," he says. "We're all of us liars." - Alric
I loved Alric. Maybe it's because he tells stories. But even though he does tell pretty lies, there's truth in what he says at times. I like the edge and uncertainty he added to scenes. He was a master at deception and getting along with whom ever he choose, so Solveig was never quite sure when he was telling the truth or not. And I love that quote. For reason of my own. ;)
Hake. He was so awesome! For some reason when I picture Hake, I picture Gobber the Belch from How to Train Your Dragon. Except Hake has all of his limps and teeth. He was so honorable.
And how I fear that day, for I know when I look into my betrayer's face, I will see someone I thought I knew. And I will still love them.
Solveig was my favorite. This is one of those rare times when the main character trumps all the side characters for me. I relate to her well. She was an introvert who no one noticed. She told stories. She was one of those people who sees the bad in you and loves you anyways. After she's done being disappointed in you, that is. She is fiercely loyal, though 'fierce' is not a word you would normally think to describe her with. I really liked Solveig. Then I read the above quote and loved her even more. And, wow! She changed so much throughout the book. And it was done realistically. Maybe everyone didn't change. Maybe it was just Solveig and the way she perceived the others that changed that makes it feel as if everyone else changed too.
The ending! Wow. The person you least expect. Not the traitor. But the wolf. Wow. (You have to read it to 'get it'.)
And now I want a raven, and you must go read the book. Uh, please.