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Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Anvil of Ice

Recommended: The Anvil of Ice (Michael Scott Rohan)

Michael Scott Rohan's Winter of the World trilogy is just the kind of work I aim at recommending. It's beautiful, simply wonderful - and hardly anyone has ever read it. Oh, I suppose Mr. Rohan is hardly the most obscure author one could find, but somehow his work never gained the kind of popularity found by its literary equals.

The trilogy opens with The Anvil of Ice. Alv is a foundling, an unwanted cowherd in a little port town. His childish wishes for the destruction of his hated home seem to be answered when the Ekwesh raiders appear, their boats low on the sea. The boy is claimed by the Mastersmith travelling with these barbarians. Apparently displaying a potential for smithcraft, Alv makes the long travel to the Mastersmith's reclusive tower that clutches the mountains opposite the relentless grinding of the Ice.

His apprenticeship is long and strange, and many are the arcane secrets he learns from the magesmith. Talent Alv has, oh yes, but he must work hard to develop it. Long hours he labors at the massive forges that draw heat from the deeps of the world; long hours he painstakingly patterns his molds, and etches secret characters into his metals, and all this time he hums and chants the songs that give virtue to his works. A long and strange and perhaps lonesome apprenticeship it is, but it will not last.

Perhaps it is accident only that sends Alv fleeing from his Master before his finishes his apprenticeship. Perhaps such things can be no accident while the world slowly grows cold, and the very mountains groan under the implacable march of the beautiful and terrible Ice. But whatever starts his wanderings, Alv must learn first to forge himself anew before his skill can truly be his own.

You may need to work to acquire this book; perhaps your library owns it, or can request it. To my knowledge it is not available new from the major booksellers, but you can find it on the used book websites.

Its worthy sequels are The Forge in the Forest and The Hammer of the Sun. (Of course, Rule Number One always applies: no author is ceaselessly brilliant.) He has also written a prequel (The Castle of the Winds) that I have not read; it seems unnecessary but I look forward to reading it nonetheless.

Finally, Michael Scott Rohan's Spiral series will certainly be recommended here (making Mr. Rohan one of very few authors who deserve such a double mention); Chase the Morning is the first and best of these.


Unknown said...

I just found this series again after over 20 years of looking (I had read "Anvil of Ice" in 1989 in 9th grade, and couldn't remember anything except that the authors name began with "R" and the jist of what the series is about).

Anyway, I agree that it IS a very decent set of books, and whole-heartedly recomend it for starting readers in the sci-fi/fantasy genre...

Joel said...

Matt, thanks for the comment. I keep meaning to get back to the series and read the 2nd and 3rd books, but have been traveling a winding road when it comes to my reading interests.

I think the thing that sticks with me most about The Anvil of Ice is the magic/smithing system (including the tie between the crafting of the sword and the beginning of the book, which I thought was a beautiful connection), as well as the relationship between the main character and his mentor. Very cool stuff.