Stuart Hill was born in Leicester, in the East Midlands, where he still lives. He has worked as a car trimmer, a cemetery gardener, a teacher and an archaeologist. He now balances his life as a busy bookseller with that of a writer. The Cry of the Icemark is his first novel for children.
British bookseller Hill's debut novel is a sprawling military fantasy that benefits from a likable heroine and will appeal most to readers who enjoy getting swept up in a good, lengthy yarn. Icemark is about to be invaded by General Scipio Bellorum and his armies of the Polypontus Empire, a kingdom that "had so far brought enlightenment to over fifty countries and provinces, crushing the irrational beliefs of their populations whether they wanted it or not." Thirrin, the 13-year-old daughter of the king of Icemark, has a near-death scrape with a werewolf, but when the creature spares her life, she comes to trust him and brings about an uneasy truce between the soldiers of Icemark and the Wolf-folk. When her father dies in battle, Thirrin ascends to leadership and musters allies for the upcoming fight against Bellorum-including the Vampire King and Queen to their north, who were not long ago their sworn enemies. Hill's swift-moving narrative is heavy on war room and battlefield scenes, which will delight fans of military struggle, but may wear on more casual fantasy readers. The third-person narrative draws upon a mish-mash of mythologies: in addition to werewolves and vampires (and even references to Valhalla), animated trees, ghosts and leopard people figure into the plot. However, Hill braids these elements smoothly, and his winning heroine will lead readers through this 500+ page epic. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-8-This epic fantasy has at its center a spunky 13-year-old warrior princess. When her father dies in a heroic battle with a gigantic invading army, Thirrin becomes queen of her small but hardy country, the Icemark. Having already made allies of the werewolves and found a friend and advisor in a young warlock, Oskan, she sets off with him to forge new alliances. They journey to the land of the Vampire King and Queen and persuade them to join the alliance, and then go on to the dangerous talking snow leopards, the leader of whom becomes a most valuable friend. The final third of the book deals with the extended siege of the capital city and the bloody battles in and around it, leading to the eventual defeat of the invaders. Characters tend to be two-dimensional and conflicts within and between them do little to influence the plot. Thirrin's shyness in personal encounters, for example, quickly disappears. Oskan goes through experiences that should be transformative, especially in a young person, but he shows no evidence of inner change throughout the book. In general, the writing tends to be explanatory rather than descriptive, and this leads to a flatness in what should be an exciting story. Nancy Farmer's The Sea of Trolls (S & S, 2004) tackles a similar northern setting with far more realism and suspense. While lovers of Christopher Paolini's Eragon (Knopf, 2003) may take to this novel, and its courageous female protagonist is laudable, in the presently crowded field of fantasies, it will struggle to stand out.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.