cover image Ice Land

Ice Land

Betsy Tobin, . . Plume, $15 (354pp) ISBN 978-0-452-29569-8

Tobin's second novel (after Bone House ) is set in Iceland, A.D. 1000, just as Christianity is taking a foothold and the volcano Hekla is growing restive. In this slick re-imagining of Norse myth, humans, dwarves, giants and gods differ superficially but suffer life's trials equally and are susceptible to love, loss, violence and even the weather. The central character, Freya, is an Aesir (a god), who is essentially human but for her ability to fly and her address: she notes that her kind “occupy the space that men create for something larger than themselves.” (In Freya's case, she occupies “the tainted realm of love.”) Among numerous subplots, Freya's story follows her quest for a powerful gold necklace, the Brisingamen, accompanied by a love-torn human teenager named Fulla. Tobin's rich understanding of the source material, backed up by deft historical touches—beds made of moss and skins, turf-roofed houses, earthenware cups—brings the narrative to life. Though women take center stage, Tobin sketches the thoughts of both male and female characters with skill. With an introspective dwarf, the god Odin and a fearsome band of giants, Tobin has this one aimed squarely at the Mists of Avalon audience, and she hits big. (Aug.)