Sonderbooks     Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

<>I don't review books I don't like!
<>*****= An all-time favorite
<>****  = Outstanding
<>***    = Above average
<>**      = Enjoyable
<>*        = Good, with reservations


by Catherine Fisher

Reviewed January 10, 2005.
Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), New York, 2004.  Originally published in Great Britain in 1993-1996 as three separate books: The Snow-Walker’s Son, The Empty Hand, and The Soul Thieves.  507 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF FIS).

I loved Catherine Fisher’s book The Oracle Betrayed, so I snatched up this book when it came to the library.  I didn’t look at the fine print on the copyright page at first, so I was a bit disappointed.  Once I realized that this trilogy was written first, I can report that Catherine Fisher has gotten better in her writing since then.  This is book is a good accomplishment for a first novel and its sequels.

I think I would have preferred the book in three separate volumes.  In this format, it got a bit long, and I felt relieved when I finally finished it.  The story is good and interesting, but not enough of a page-turner to get me through 500 pages of three separate stories quickly.  Readers might consider reading one story at a time, taking a break between the three books of the trilogy contained in this one volume.

The story is a good one.  We have a mysterious witch, a Snow-Walker, who has married the Jarl and taken over the Jarlshold in a far northern country.  Jessa, a nobleman’s daughter, is sent into exile to the same icy palace where the Snow-Walker’s son has been sent.  He’s rumored to be a monster, and Jessa fears what will happen when she sees him.

The first book tells the story of the struggle to break the witch’s power.  However, the witch doesn’t die.  In the second book, she sends a monster seeking revenge on the Jarlshold.  The key to conquering her is the Snow-Walker’s son.  Can Jessa trust him not to become like his mother?

Finally, in the third book, the witch sends an even worse scourge to the Jarlshold.  The only solution is for her son and a small band of fellow-travelers, including Jessa, to travel to the northern end of the world to find the witch and break her spell.  This is a quest tale with overtones of northern tales of giants and trolls and bears and wolves.

I don’t want to give an impression that this isn’t a good story.  This is a good basic fantasy tale, and I think it would appeal to upper elementary kids through older teens who love fantasy stories.  It didn’t quite capture my heart or my imagination.  Still, I did stick it out through the entire 500 pages, since I did want to find out what happened to these people.  As a follow-up to The Oracle Betrayed, this book would have been disappointing.  However, discovering that Snow-Walker was written first, I think it’s an excellent first effort, and Catherine Fisher only gets better.

Reviews of other books by Catherine Fisher:
The Oracle Betrayed
The Sphere of Secrets

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

-top of page-