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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby was compelling reading. As the temperature dropped outside, I curled up with this tale from the frozen north and warmed myself with Nordic storytelling of the finest.  I couldn’t wait to return to reading each chapter of Solveig’s growth in confidence and storytelling ability. Here’s a synopsis from the author’s blog:

“Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig, along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors, anxiously awaits news of her father’s victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, and a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another.

Those charged with protecting the king’s children are all suspect, and the siblings must choose their allies wisely. But who can be trusted so far from their father’s watchful eye and unchallenged authority? Can Solveig and her siblings survive the long winter months and expose the traitor before he succeeds in destroying a king, his empire, and his children?”

While I was happily reading the survival story of Solveig, Asa, and Harald, suddenly along came Alric the skald, and Hake, the chief of the Berserkers. Yes, oh, joyful Norse myth lovers, our Berserkers are an integral part of this middle grade story. For those of you who mistakenly think all Vikings were barbarians, check out the Viking Answer Lady’s post on berserkergang.

However, the focus of this story is truly on the power of words and tales. Using skaldic poetry and focusing on the oral tradition of storytelling, Matthew J. Kirby has composed a tale of Nordic historical fiction that will be a welcome addition to middle school collections. The storytelling not only complements the action, it compels the readers to sink themselves into this solitary fiordic holding. The story enables our characters and the readers to cope with life, death, fear, and betrayal. Words are powerful. This story is powerful.

Recently I received a donated review copy of Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby from my district office with a note that the book was processed ready for entry into the cataloging system. I wasn’t sure this was an elementary title so I took it home to curl up and read.

Well, okay, I confess that I immediately “had” to read this title because it focuses on Norse mythology. The stories my late grandfather told me that he had heard from his sisters are reflected in the spirit of these tales. My grandfather was the only one of his siblings born in the U.S. after his family moved from Norway. He died when I was only seven, but I can still recall some of the stories he told when my brother and I wouldn’t take our naps. After he died, my grandmother continued telling stories from a wider variety of international folklore. The Norse legends are still dear to me and underappreciated. Schools focus on Greek and Roman myths. Even when the curriculum specifically states the inclusion of the African, Asian, Norse, Native American, Indian, Persian, and Chinese myths, they ignore it.


  1. hi diane, were you hosting STEM friday on Friday? Or have I made a mistake? I wanted to take part with this contribution