Ice Land (Paperback)
Plume Books, 9780452295698, 354pp.
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
Iceland, AD 1000
Freya knows that her people are doomed. Warned by the Fates of an impending disaster, she must embark on a journey to find a magnificent gold necklace, one said to possess the power to alter the course of history. But even as Freya travels deep into the mountains of Iceland, the country is on the brink of war. The new world order of Christianity is threatening the old ways of Iceland's people, and tangled amidst it all are two star-crossed lovers who destiny draws them together?even as their families are determined to tear them apart
Infused with the rich history and mythology of Iceland, Betsy Tobin's sweeping novel is an epic adventure of forbidden love, lust, jealousy, faith and magical wonder set under the shadow of a smoldering volcano.
About the Author
Praise For Ice Land…
"Magic....[this] flight through the seamy side of Scandinavian myth is not as cold as the title might suggest. It's a story of sex, love, blood, and the twilight of the gods, punctuated with hot pools, boiling magma, and volcanic explosions. Very steamy!"
-Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander novels
"A rich, complex, and compelling tale of myth, magic and very human passion. Tobin weaves together legend and history into an epic saga, layering the grandeur of a semi-mythic Iceland with the familiar landscape of the human heart."
-Lauren Willig, author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
"Ice Land had me with its first sentence. I loved the book's journey into long- ago time and the myths of epic, ancient gods. Tobin is a skillful and talented writer."
-Karleen Koen, author of Dark Angels
"A very engrossing read. Told in Betsy Tobin's lyrical voice and set against a backdrop of mythical and natural grandeur, Ice Land is a tale both sensual and violent."
-Kristen Britain, author of the Green Rider series
"[Tobin] hits big... [Her] rich understanding of the source material, backed up by deft historical touches...brings the narrative to life."
"One does not often meet a heroine with the power of flight, but Betsy Tobin's characters are hardly ordinary people. . . Not just a good story, but one of the greatest."
-The Times (UK)
"Tobin captures this world in all its complexity. . . Here is a world where magic and mystery rise from the currents of nature and not in defiance of it. The land itself, and the sea and sky surrounding, engender myth as naturally as the salmon spawns."
-The Independent (UK)
"ICE LAND is a lyrically written epic inspired by the beauty and the history of that island, and the rich world of Norse mythology that infuses it. . . Indeed the novel grafts a modern sensibility on to ancient myth, and is as much a contemplation of love and relationships as an epic adventure. . . Tobin finds female complexity at the heart of Norse mythology."
- Sunday Telegraph (UK)
"The novels of Betsy Tobin are dark and bloody, sensual and mythic. . . In ICE LAND Tobin inhabits this pagan land with passion and intensity."
-The Observer (UK)
"[ICE LAND] pulses with subversion and unexpected passion. . . an elegy not merely to a different age where the gods were perceived as not so distant, but also crucially to a tradition of storytelling; the gathering around a bright fire to hear tales of hardship, magic and love. It is surprising just how resonant they still are."
"Tobin's descriptions of the natural relief of Iceland are triumphant."
-Time Out (UK)
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- In Ice Land, the magical and mundane not only coexist, they interact: How did you like the way Betsy Tobin wove together the lives of the Norse gods and the humans who inhabit Iceland? Also, evaluate the book as a piece of historical fiction – as Tobin sets her book during the century when many natives of Iceland began to convert to Christianity. Did the book feel more like a fantasy novel, or more like a work of historical fiction?
- Similarly, was it difficult to move between the two main storylines (Fulla's, and Freya's)? When the two storylines intersected, and all of the characters came together at the end, was the integration seamless? How else might this convergence of the storylines be important? (What might it symbolize?)
- Discuss the ways in which the first chapter, written from Freya's perspective, sets the tone for the rest of the novel. What motifs and themes does it introduce, or foreshadow? Additionally, discuss the way Freya explains her role as a "god" in Iceland—how does it make her existence, and the existence of the other gods, seem more ordinary and matter of fact?
- Fulla is introduced almost as Freya's mortal counterpart – on the whole, she's docile, obedient, and innocent. How much of this is due to her age, and how much of this is due to her nature? Describe and discuss the ways we see Fulla change over the course of the story – in what ways does she parallel the changes occurring in Iceland? (Likewise, how does Freya reflect these changes, too?)
- Fulla's grandfather, Hogni, represents the older generation in Iceland, a generation that believes in pagan myths and traditions and is resistant to the wave of Christianity spreading across the land. Discuss the ways in which his beliefs are put to the test when he and Fulla travel to the Althing to find her a husband, and later when Vili stays to nurse him after he's wounded.
- At the same time that Fulla and her grandfather are searching for her future husband, Freya is bartering with the dwarves for the Brisingamen. Knowing how Freya felt after being deserted by her husband, Od, and knowing that she was not shy about her sexuality, were you nonetheless surprised when Freya agreed to sleep with each dwarf brother in exchange for the necklace? What did each night reveal about the dwarves and, more importantly, Freya? Was Freya's choice to trade her body for the necklace much different than Hogni's decision to trade his granddaughter for wealth, connectedness and security? What comment do you think Tobin is making about sexuality through these characters?
- Describe Freya's relationship with Dvalin over the course of the novel and compare it with that of Fulla's developing relationship with Vili. How are the two romances similar, and where are they – importantly – dissimilar? Which do you value more, and why? Which relationship feels more complex, and richer?
- Discuss the importance of family in the novel by examining and comparing and contrasting the following relationships: Freya with Freyr and Njord; Vili with Thorstein; Fulla with Hogni; and Dvalin and Idun. What does the book (and the myths) reveal about the role of family in the lives of the Scandinavian people?
- Compare the four women in Dvalin's life – Idun, Gerd, Menglad, and Freya – and the way he treats them. Discuss the ways in which being abandoned by his mother at an early age most likely affected his relationships with women later in life. Why do you think he resisted being saved by Freya at various points throughout the book? What makes him accept Freya's last and final rescue when Hekla errupts? (Why has his attitude toward her changed, and how has it changed?)
- Likewise, compare the male characters in this book with the female characters. What traits are prevalent in almost all of the female characters? On the whole, what are the men like? What does this division between men and women say about the social structure of Iceland circa 1000 AD?
- Discuss Odin's revelation at the end of the novel, when he discloses to Freya that he believes he is Fulla's father. Does his sudden interest in the girl feel genuine? What do you believe it might signify beyond a familial tie? (Why else would Odin feel compelled to connect with the girl?)
- When Hekla erupts at the end of the novel, she acts as a catalyst for change – not only in the physical landscape of Iceland, but in the attitudes and emotions of its inhabitants. Describe the possible ways Hekla may also be a symbol within the novel – what does she symbolize? Why is it important (significant) that Freya refer to the volcano as a female entity? Similarly, how do the chapter divisions titled "The Norns" foreshadow what will happen in the pages that follow?
- Compare Ice Land to other works of historical fiction that you may have read. How is it similar, and how is it unconventional? Did you enjoy it? What was your favorite part of the story?