Here we go!
It's been seventeen years since Queen Thirrin Lindenshield drove back Scipio Bellorum and the Polypontian army from the Icemark, but rumors are spreading of a return of the menacing force. Things are looking dire, and even the allies Thirrin made almost two decades ago may not be enough to stop the Empire's tide. So she sends her youngest son, Charlemagne Athelstan Redrought Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield (try saying that three times fast), crippled by polio as a child, away as Prince Regent to the Exiles of the Icemark, in case her homeland falls. In fact, the worst danger may be from her daughter, Medea, a powerful girl attuned to the Dark.
But Maggiore Totus, who has seen more than one war in his lifetime, is devising a plan that will use Charlemagne as the catalyst of the most incredible uprising the world has ever seen. Alliances are made, battles are fought, and it all ties into a prophecy from Oskan: "The exile shall return, a blade of fire in his hand..."
I didn't know how Stuart Hill could improve upon the massive epic that was the first book in the Icemark Chronicles, but he did in every way. Charlemagne is a strong character, and he has quite the dynamic character arc. It's great to get to see Thirrin and Oskan again, this time in vastly different roles. Almost twenty years have passed, and the relationships between returning characters have grown and matured nicely.
I find myself once again surprised at how much Hill manages to cram into this book. There's a lot of new locales to be visited, new battles described with broad, impressive strokes (this book includes a Sky Navy, and I'm not saying anything more about that), and fleshed-out internal struggles that all come to nice conclusions. And that's another thing. Like Cry of the Icemark, this book is self-contained and a nice stand-alone adventure. There's a little of everything, and Hill's great writing make the battle scenes never cease to be exciting. I can practically hear the score in my head...
Suffice it to say I'll be reading Book 3, Last Battle of the Icemark, with a much shorter wait than I gave Book 2.
My rating: 10/10
Coming Soon: Under the Dome.