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on 29 November 2002
This, along with A Cavern of Black Ice (the first book of the series), is definitely one of the best books which I have ever read. Once again J.V. Jones' descriptive style of writing has come to life in this sequel.
A very brief plot summary is needed to really understand much of anything, so here we go. The two most important main characters are Raif Severance and Ash March. In the book, there are great waring clans, and Raif is an outcast clansman from clan Blackhail. In the previous book, he helped Ash escape from her foster father, Penthero Iss. In the beginning of the book Ash and Raif are sepparated, and, having nowhere else to go, Raif goes off in search of the Maimed Men, unwhole men who live on the outside of the clanholds. Meanwhile, Ash travels with two Sull, people who are above the ways of humans, who are wise, brave, and powerful. The Sull need her for an upcoming war with very powerful undead creatures which had been freed from their imprisonment. There are many more important characters, and much more to say, but that really sums up the plot as simply as I can put it.
There is one definite thing in this book which really gives an edge over many other books. The whole story circles around the taiga and tundra, where the clanholds and the Maimed Men are. And so, you need to have complete and utter coldness. The cold is constantly an element of the book which sets a solid image in your head from the first pages and is never left out of the story. It must be the most important part of the setting, because without it, there would be so few challenges for the characters, and the land would seem so much tamer.
The characters are also quite exelent. All characters are perfected for their roles in the story. From clan chiefs to assasins, from city men to Sull, the characters were perfect. They are consistant in personality, though there is still exelent characterization. Changes to the characters are not ever sudden or obvious, which makes it even better.
As I said, this is definitely one of the best books which I have ever read. This is a book which anyone would love to read, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who can endure the pages of the first book as well as this.
*Please give me feedback-helpful or not?*
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on 1 February 2004
The sequel to J V Jones' _Cavern of Black Ice_ repeats the feats and folly of the first. Her world of icy wastelands and warring clanholds is wonderfully rich in detail, and described in such flowing prose that it's frequently a delight to gorge upon. J V Jones has always been an incredibly gritty fantasy writer, and never more so than here: the reader feels every wound, tastes every morsel, and smells every stench along with her characters.
Add some believable, complex characters (shamed clansman Raif and his 'odd' young sister Effie being the standouts) and an entertainingly twisty plot, and this is a winning combination for anyone tired of doorstep fantasy that expends countless pages on anorexic pseudo-medieval worlds and identikit Tolkien-esque cliches.
The drawbacks are twofold. First, at times it can be all *too* rich, and I imagine the detailed accounts of arduous journeys could grow tedious for some, although for me this was mostly staved off by frequent point-of-view changes. Secondly, as yet the more overtly fantastical elements of the plot (nameless evils from the beneath the ice) are sitting a little uneasily alongside the sheer, breathtaking realism of the world. I certainly found myself far more engaged by the grittier, faster-paced plotlines centred on the clanholds - when, to all intents and purposes, this is a mere preliminary to the main, world-shattering event. It remains to be seen how this will be reconciled in the third - but I will certainly be reading it!
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VINE VOICEon 1 December 2002
I read 'Cavern of Black Ice' the first in this trilogy without knowing anything about JV Jones as a writer and proceded to press the book on all of my friends as one of the very few intelligently written, literate, cliché-free fantasy novels on the market. The sequel exceeds it in excellence, the plot flows smoothly with jump cuts to the differing characters in appropriate places, the language is lyrical and exceptionally intelligent for this genre - if it weren't fantasy, someone would have picked this up as genuine literature by now - and the characterisation is lovely. The world inhabited by Raif and Effie Severance is real and believable. Go out and buy one now - it's the best you'll find between now and the next Guy Gavriel Kaye - and possibly better.
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on 20 May 2003
JV Jones is a writer with an amazing talent. She is able to captivate the reader with a spellbinding narrative in places. Her ideas are interesting and she really stands out from the crowd of fantasy writers. However, I do have to say that she is also one of the most long-winded authors I have come across in a long time. I found myself getting so frustrated with the amount of unnecessary detail that I started skim reading just to get through it. There is only so much that can be written about long journeys through frozen wastes and I'm afraid that JV Jones has overindulged this area to the extent that I found myself groaning every time somebody got on their horse. There are some great characters in the books but they tend to get lost in all the travelling. Cavern and Fortress could easily have been condensed into one book without sacrificing the quality, indeed my enjoyment would have been greatly enhanced had this been the case. I found the plot in Fortress very limited and was so relieved to finally finish. So much more could have been made of the talents of the main characters than has been. Basically, Ash hears a few howls and Raif fires an arrow into the ice. I usually expect a bit more from my central characters than this. Hopefully by the time the next one is released my memory of the tedium will have diminished and I will regain the initial interest sparked by Cavern.
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on 19 April 2009
Even better then the first book!

J.V Jones' 2nd book in the 'Sword of Shadows' series is simply a great fantasy/adventure read.

The story continues where book I left off and follows sequentially Raif, Ash and Effie; their stories take some interesting twists and turns throughout the course of this book. The terrain is the same basic bleak winter tundra (although spring appears to be coming) of the first book.

One of the many strong points of this novel is the deliberate pacing of this story and its telling. Then add to this a great basic story, plus an author's with the ability to weave a good tale, and you end up with a memorable fantasy work. And although different in various ways, this work, at times, conjures up memories of the writing quality and techniques found in George R.R. Martin's 'Iced and Fire' series and Joe Abercrombie's 'The First Law' trilogy. (see P.S. below)

The only niggling complaint would be that the map (and in fairness, the one provided is fairly good) could have provided a little more detail; details that give some names or markings as to where our protagonist were located during some of their journeys. I realize this is probably a 'personal' concern, but I've always liked to have a sense of position and of distance/proximity to other geographic locales when reading fantasy/adventure; it just makes the prolonged treks easier to visualize in my mind.

A 2nd book in this series that is of the highest order; a great story, superbly told. 5 Stars.

Ray Nicholson

I defy anyone not be moved to the point of being emotionally distraught by chapter 5 in this book. A subjective opinion...certainly; but read this one chapter and see how it affects you.
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on 25 November 2015
I enjoyed the first book immensely but I think this is even better. The battle scenes are exciting, the characters are compelling and the settings are dark, dangerous, bleak but always believable. Many threads in the story , not always immediately connected are developed and I think the success of the story is that I was disappointed to reach the end of each chapter - I wanted to keep on reading about that part ! I'm not sure the "quest" is as strong as other aspects but I hope to be proved wrong in the next volume ...
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on 6 June 2003
This book is a very well written story of good vs. evil. All the different plot lines are interwoven wonderfully! I like how there are so many different stories going on at once. And that no character is either purely good or purely evil. This makes the characters seem more real than many characters in other books.The descriptions are so vivid that I could easily picture the scene as I read it. I can't wait for the third one to come out!
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on 28 May 2010
I thought I'd write this review for people who may have read the 1st book in the series, thought it was ok and wondering whether to continue...

I was one of those people as I thought the first book was so-so - a 3 star read, so I only read the next one as someone had lent it to me so it was just there!
The first book was a bit dreary and the pace wasn't quite right. For such a long book the characters didn't really develop - but this is set right in this book.

Ash stops being so passive and starts to develop a personality, Raif has some gritty ups and downs, the plot thickens nicely in Vanis Spires and some interesting twists in the clans. There are a lot of threads, laying the path for future developments i guess - with Effie, Raina & Angus, but I felt it was all well interwoven.

I would say this is a good read not a great one, the characters are still a bit good OR bad - there isn't enough of the greyness that you see in some other series (Hobbs, Martin, Abercrombie). Also, whilst the journey parts are nicely paced, the end-game in both this and the first book is a bit of a let down - so the showdowns at the ice cavern and ice fortress are both slightly anti-climatic and a bit too easy.

But i will carry on read the next one and see if she keeps it up.
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on 30 March 2013
I think Jones is a great writer stylistically. After enjoying his first book in the series immensely I was a little disappointed with this, simply because the story moves along rather slowly. The ending, however, ensures that you will want to buy the third book in the series.
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on 20 March 2007
I read The Book of Words a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. I read the first of this triology and loved it - couldn't put it down! I therefore steamed into the second one, only to find half way through that I was torn between getting on with the engrossing story, or wading through all the blah blah blah that this book contains.

The good bits:

The Clanholds are fantastic, well conceived, written and structured. Jones has done a fantastic job here and they're worthy of a book on their own.

Characters are also superb. Deep and three dimensional. I love them all.

The not so good bits:

I couldn't help wondering why, when everything is so well written, why I could not understand exactly why Raif makes the choices he does. Neither does the Dog Lord quite fulfil his position as clan chief - I found myself unable to understand his choices and how he could have suceeded for years when he makes some god-awful choices in this book. It made me think that Jones struggled with some of the story lines and couldn't find a way of moving from one scene to the next so that the story headed in the direction she wanted. Raif in particular made some odd choices - and I could not explain them in any logical way.

I read the whole second book waiting for something to happen and nothing really did. When you read the back cover you are expecting Ash to battle demons with magic, Raif to be slaughtering them with his bow and all sorts of other things to be going on, but in fact, well some people wander about a bit, eat some food, a few meetings take place and then some demons appear - there is no real explanation or story to the demons so far - what they do, what is happening or how they navigate/hunt or move. Why for instance are the demons pursuing Ash and the Far Riders?

One other thing puzzles me too - on the books rear cover it says "thousands of leagues to the North Raif is discovering he can kill them easily" or something.... Really? Thousands of leagues? not in this world/landscape they are not: it isn't that big! Also - he ain't discovering nothing till about two chapters from the end - the rest is just stories.

I found some parts of Raif's story just to convenient frankly. The Knights, the cave painting, oh and the rediculous archery contest (ooo the wind just happened to blow at the right time?) the outworlder - and Raif being bested by Stillborn? Isn't this the man that in a rage killed three Bluddsmen? OK I know he wasn't upset by Stillborn (any more than the fact that he was trying to kill him - which to most men would I would have thought, been enough!) but I was expecting much more of him and the events were just to convenient for my liking.

One last thing: the maps are pants.

Overall I DID like this book, but if it had been the first, I would have not bought the second - it was more like the Barbed Coil than Bakers Boy.

The third book is eagerly awaited and I hope it fulfils the first books promise.

Oh and nobody remembers a book starring a guy called Forst, and about a city floating in the sky do they? I can't remember the author or title and I want to find it again!

Cheers everybody!

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