Review: Icefall, by Gillian Philip


Series: Rebel Angels #4 | Genre: Fantasy (YA/Adult) | Publisher: Strident | Publication date: March 18th 2014 | My rating: 5/5

Death stalks Seth MacGregor’s clan in their otherworld exile.

Kate NicNiven is close to ultimate victory, and she is determined that nothing will keep her from it. Not even the thing that took her soul: the horror that lurks in the sea caves.

But Kate still needs Seth’s son Rory, and his power over the Veil. And she’ll go to any lengths to get him.

Seth’s own soul is rotting from the wound inflicted by Kate, and survival for his loved ones seems all he can hope for. But might a mortal threat to his brother’s daughter Hannah force him to return to his own world to challenge Kate?

And will Rory go with him? Because Rory MacSeth suspects there’s a darkness trapped in the Veil – a darkness that wants to get out. But only one Sithe knows how near it is to getting its way: Seth’s bound lover, the witch Finn.

Nobody gets forever.

But some are willing to try…

Coming to the end of a well-loved series is a bittersweet thing. Upon reflection I’ve realised that I haven’t really done it that often, although I have plenty of series books on the go, and on my favourites list – so I suppose that’s a feeling I’ll have to get used to. In the meantime, let’s talk about why I love this one…

I want to talk first about the characters who have taken me on the incredible, epic, fraught-with-peril journey that is this series. It began with Seth MacGregor, that irritable, irritating, sometimes feral, utterly lovable bastard who got me hooked and kept me on the hook. So it’s only right that, without going into plot details, it ends with him too. He’s not the only one, though. That long road is pretty well strewn with bodies before the end, but this doesn’t mean he’s alone at the end of it all. Hence the bittersweet.

Finn, Rory, Hannah, and a host of others – they all play their parts and make their marks, and without them I don’t think Seth or his story would be nearly so compelling. Even Kate NicNiven, the Sithe queen and villain of the piece, was more than present enough to make me frown, curse, worry and squirm on the edge of my seat.

And what a villain she is. Though her self-serving goals may seem pretty cut and dried, it’s the level of sheer determination (read: madness) she possesses that really made my skin crawl whenever she appeared on the scene. Her eventual, inevitable clash with Seth (and, equally as importantly, with Finn) becomes something more than even she had imagined, and while I’ll never like her, as such, I have to admit I maybe felt a little sympathy for her as everything really started to unfold. Augh, it’s impossible to say more without going into spoilers – but in my book, a villain who inspires any kind of sympathy is miles better than one who doesn’t. Right?

For all of her wonderful characters, however, it’s Gillian Philip’s undeniable way with the words themselves that nudges me over the edge of liking these books, into loving them. From that opening scene of Firebrand to here, it’s been the simple, stark yet lyrical flow of her writing style that sets these books apart in my mind. The power of a mental picture can often rest on how well it’s presented, and it’s entirely to her credit that Gillian seems to simply present it, with little to no fanfare, never overdoing it – yet it always has that indelible impact that the balance of elegance and crystal clarity can have. Whether she’s describing a setting or, as is often the case, putting Seth or one of his nearest and dearest through the wringer, it’s never failed to absorb my attention. So many times over the course of reading Icefall, as with the previous books, I’ve either been left chewing my fingernails off, close to tears or simply taken with the urge to get my boots on and go for a hike…

When you read about a setting that leaves you practically feeling the wind blowing or tasting the spray of sea water, you know you’re onto something good.

So, there I was, gripped from start to finish – both from the start of this book to its finale, and from the start of the series to its heartwrenching end. And here I am, unable to really say anything other than I’m sorry it’s over, but hey. That’s what re-reads are for, right?



2 thoughts on “Review: Icefall, by Gillian Philip

  1. I skimmed your review because I still haven’t read book 3 in the series yet! But do have a copy, so I’m halfway there, right?

    LOVE this series so much, and I owe a huge thanks to all my UK friends for telling us Americans what we were missing out on!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *