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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
A Cavern Of Black Ice: Book 1 of the Sword of Shadows
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on 5 April 1999
I must admit to be a real fan of J.V. Jones, she is a wonderful author who manages to transport you to her worlds with consumate ease. A Cavern of Black Ice is no exception. As an avid reader of fantasy I can honestly say I have never read an initial book in a trilogy that promises, and gives, as much as Cavern does. It is a sweeping plot set in an ice bound land that has you turning the heating up as you read it. Julie's character's are always excellent, they are believable, human and heroic (or of course demonic and vile!). In any of their guises you very soon become caught up in their epic struggle of good and evil with ancient magic. Cavern is a long book and so much the better for it, the pace is just right the plot and characterisation is given time to develop into a deeply woven and spellbinding epic. If you only buy one book this year make sure that its A Cavern of Black Ice, you won't regret it. Just make sure you wrap up real warm while you read or you'll have frostbite before you know it!
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on 9 January 1999
Well, I couldn't wait for U.S. bookstores to stock this book. As soon as I heard it was available in the U.K. I had to order it, because I am a huge fan of the Book of Words trilogy. Even though different, anyone that has read any of J.V. Jones work will LOVE this book. Actually, anyone who can READ will love this book!
I had heard people say that a book they were reading was "impossible to put down", but I have never before read a book that kept me that deep in the story. That has now changed! The characters are complex, the descriptions of the landscape and weather are enough to make you wrap up in a blanket or two, and the story line keeps you turning the page until deep into the night (or early the next morning)!
In addition to worrying about Ash (who one of your reviewers gave a bit too much away about) escaping her horrible foster father and his devious plans, you feel heartsick for Raif and the pain he must endure for the sake of his clan. Sometimes you just want to reach into the story and shake him and yell "Just tell them what happened!" Their story alone would keep you turning pages, but you also have to wonder if Drey will be the one to stop the loathful Mace and how will he keep his and Raif's sister Effie safe? Or their clan? What of Angus (and the whole Lok family)? Who are the Phage? Why won't the Dog Lord just pull those darned teeth? What will happen to Raina? And that psychotic Marafice Eye, Penthero Iss' right hand man. Why won't he just die already?
These are just a FEW of the questions you'll be asking yourself! I, for one, can't wait to learn more about the Sull! (And of course, all the new questions you'll be asking yourself after reading the last word on the last page! I'm warning you, don't ruin it for yourself and read the last page first, you'll be very sorry! And if you figure it out for yourself before the last page, my hat's off to you!)
Just so you know, this is a darker book than the Words trilogy. There's not a lot of comic relief running through the story (sorry, no Grift and Bodger wannabes in a alehouse handing out advice to unsuspecting baker's boys), but don't for a minute think that's a bad thing! The unforgiving land this story is set in doesn't leave much room for lighthearted humor. The humor it does have is very earthy and real, just like the surroundings and the people that make up this world.
All in all, I can't recommend this book highly enough. I have read A LOT of Fantasy, but this is by far my number one pick of all time. Don't miss out!
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on 1 May 2000
An excellent start to her newest trilogy--better than the Book of Words novels even though it's set in the same world. 'A Cavern of Black Ice' is a compelling read with complex characters and a strong sense of place that permeates every page. The protagonists are strong interesting characters who are far from perfect heroes, and nobody writes 'baddies' better than J V Jones. She's a bold writer who never shirks from making shocking choices when they're needed and despite writing a long book even by fantasy terms, Jones skillfully winds up the pace and keeps you reading right to the end.
This is one you'll want to read again.
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on 30 June 2003
Very interesting and very dark.
I was reluctant to pick this up after the utter rubbish of "The Barbed Coil" and the disappointing ending to, the otherwise excellent, "The Book of Words" trilogy (by disappointing I mean boring and unmemorable) but I decided to give it a try and it is excellent.
Very dark and atmospheric with interesting characters and is so far avoiding any normal fantasy clichés.
My only worry is that this was all true of "The Book of Words" too, I just hope the ending to this series manages to match the quality of the plot!
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on 17 November 2017
Genuinely one of the best books I have ever read. Very few books have that unputdownable quality but this one and the rest in this series does and even better the author is looking to complete the series.
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on 26 November 1998
I was fortunate to be able to read an advance copy of this book. A Cavern Of Black Ice is a masterpiece of storytelling, which begins the author's latest trilogy, Sword of Shadows. That this is only the beginning of the story is remarkable, considering the epic scope of this first volume. From the first page, the book transports the reader to a world of great beauty, and even greater danger. While set in the same world as The Book Of Words, the portion of the Known Lands we find in this book is a harsh, demanding environment of ice and snow. This is a land where society exists, not so much as a way to maintain order, but as an essential ingredient to one's survival. If you are the type of reader who immerses himself or herself in a book, then be sure to wear warm clothing and turn up the heat while reading this one, or you will be feeling the frostbite on your fingers and toes. The book also contains the author's usual assortment of complex, multidimensional characters. In keeping with the setting, this is a dark story, full of unexpected plot twists. A real page turner. I can't wait to read the rest of the story in the subsequent books of the series.
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on 22 June 2017
awful prose
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on 2 April 2011
Plenty of reviews describing the merits of this series so ill just say what lessened my view.

This series is a rather slow paced affair. Significant plot developments are few and there is alot of material inbetween. I did not really get into the first book until I was already 2/3rds through it.

For reasons I cannot put my finger on or articulate into words the story has not imprinted alot of caring or interest in the main characters for me. There is no single main character, rather a large ensemble of major characters. The chapters shift between them constantly which can get annoying when it switches from someone in the middle of an event to someone else making camp for the night on a journey.
Perhaps its partly because two of the central characters (Raif, Ash) generally have no idea whats going on and just coast through the whole story reacting to the consequences of being clueless and aimless.

The overarching antagonists of the series are somewhat vague and esoteric. This could make them mysterious and intriguing but in this case they are just uninteresting and detached from the story and the lore of the world. I am on the 3rd book and this far into the story the main threat has still barely been touched upon. The threat has shown itself less than 4 times and been quickly eliminated each time but what's frustrating is that the threat is constantly alluded to in the background.

Lastly, but most of all, JV Jones is relentless in mundane details. She goes into detail on every single subject and I find myself by the 3rd book skimming rather than reading some sections because its just page after page of minutia. Clothing, the act of making camp, the act of making dinner, traveling, the scenery, the terrain, the characteristics of items, the random internal musings of a character on anything and everything.
To put it in context an entire chapter can be about a few hours or days of traveling including near every chore involved in being a human being, outside, on the road.
Even when its not whole chapters worth, its irritating to have a character pause during an interesting moment to ponder the fascinating attributes of a block of stone for half a page. The way it looks, feels, bends light, where it came from, how long its been there, the skill in its working, the colours and so on. You get the picture.

The series has enough to make me finish it but I will not be putting this on my re-read list.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 7 March 2013
The chief of Clan Blackhail has been killed, allegedly by raiders from the rival Clan Bludd. The new chief, Mace Blackhail, calls for war, but one of the witnesses to the attack, Raif Sevrance, knows that the Bludds were not behind it. When Blackhail's reprisal attack results in the unintended massacre of innocent women and children, Raif abandons his clan and family and flees in the company of his uncle, the city-born Angus Lok.

Meanwhile, far to the south in the city of Spire Vanis, Asarhia March is a virtual prisoner in the fortress of her foster-father, the city's surlord. When a chance to escape arises, Ash takes it without hesitation. But her adopted father has spent sixteen years preparing for the sorcery within Ash to awaken, and he will not surrender it without a fight.

A Cavern of Black Ice, originally published in 1999, is the opening novel in J.V. Jones's Sword of Shadows sequence. This series comprises five novels, four of them now available. Prior to this series Jones wrote a well-received trilogy, The Book of Words, and a successful stand-alone novel, The Barbed Coil.

The Sword of Shadows takes place in the same world as Book of Words, with A Cavern of Black Ice commencing about sixteen years after the events of Master and Fool. The two series share two characters in common, but otherwise there are no major links between them, and Sword of Shadows can be enjoyed by itself. This is helpful because Book of Words, though entertaining, was certainly not brilliant. The work of a new author, it was a mixture of clumsy writing mixed in with variable characterisation and a dark sense of cynical humour, its main distinguishing feature. Solid, but unspectacular.

Sword of Shadows is a very different series. A Cavern of Black Ice is subtle where the former trilogy was overt, restrained where the older work was indulgent. A Cavern of Black Ice is, basically, as good an opening volume to an epic fantasy as has ever been written, better than Gardens of the Moon, The Eye of the World or Magician and almost as strong as A Game of Thrones. It's an epic work but one that does not flounder or pad. It tells the reader exactly what they need to know whilst still sprinkling in enough worldbuilding details and secondary characters to make the setting feel alive and vivid. Jones seems to have grown immensely as a writer between the two series, an improvement in writing quality between books which I believe is unparallelled in the subgenre.

One of the things that sets the work apart is the setting. The clanholds and the northern territories are lands of freezing tundra; windswept, bare forests; and frozen, treacherous rivers. There is a constant chill on the air which Jones paints so vividly some readers may find themselves reaching for their gloves. The clanholds themselves are depicted with impressive depth and realism. Jones has clearly done her research on surviving in subarctic environments, and we learn about how these clans survive and live. Refreshingly, these clans don't just consist of warriors but also farmers, smiths and weavers, with women having an important and vital role to play, sometimes as chiefs. Jones doesn't go overboard with the details, but the clans are shown to be close-knit communities made up of individuals. Jones's biggest improvement has been with characterisation, developing an almost George R.R. Martin-like ability to introduce a character, nail their characteristics in a few words and ensure the reader remembers who they are when they next show up 200 pages later.

This extends to our supposed villains as well. Penthero Iss and Sarga Veys are fairly obvious antagonists (though still well-depicted) but the brutish Marafice Eye has a whiff of the Sandor Clegane about him, a brutish lackey with unexpected depths. Vaylo Bludd, the Dog Lord, who is set up early on as one of the main bad guys, is surprisingly humane in his own POV chapters but is still a violent and occasionally remorseless killer. Only Mace Blackhail really faills into the stock bad guy department, complete with psychopathic and rapist tendencies (for once, actually used to further the plot and character in a meaningful way rather than a random act of porno-misogynistic violence thrown in for supposed grit), though also a silver tongue which gets him out of some pretty tricky situations.

Our protagonists are more interesting this time around as well. Ash and Raif at first glance appear to be cover versions of Melisandra and Jack (the protagonists of the Book of Words trilogy), our callow youth heroes, but are altogether more complex characters. Ash discovers she was put on the world for a single purpose, and must thwart that purpose before thousands are killed by it, and Raif is apparently cursed to have death following in his footsteps at all times. Both characters have elements of tragedy attached to them, which makes their stories more compelling.

Jones rarely falters. The book is well-paced with only the conclusion feeling a little rushed. But otherwise A Cavern of Black Ice (*****) is an excellent, deftly-executed opening volume to a longer series.
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on 6 February 1999
J.V Jones' newest novel is quite brilliant. I bought it as a reward having finished my exams, and had trouble putting it down. From the vivid and sometimes painful prologue, A Cavern of Black Ice grabs hold of you, and doesn't let go until you've finished it.
As usual, J.V Jones has created a wonderful gallery of characters, all excellently described, both villains and heroes. The book is set in the same world as her first trilogy, A Book of Words, so old readers will recognize similarities, yet new readers will have no trouble at all, deciding to aquaint themselves with Ms. Jones' books starting with this.
I had a wonderful time reading this book, and can recommend it to everyone. Now I am eagerly anticipating the sequel, so I can find out what happens to Raif, Ash, Effie and all the others.
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