As an avid reader of Bible-era historical fiction, Journey to the Ice by Jennifer Slattery piqued my interest from the moment I discovered it. Written for as a slender chapter book for children and young adults, I immediately slotted it into our family bedtime reading schedule. It soon became known as our “Makir” book – the name of the main character. “Do you want to read about Makir?” I’d ask, and was met with resounding answers in the affirmative each night.
Makir’s story takes place in the time period immediately following the worldwide flood which only Noah and his family survived. We find Makir living in the city of Babylon before the dawn of the ice age, amongst idol worshippers who have forgotten the one true God. The charismatic Nimrod, the mighty hunter — known for his slaying of giant lizards — is leading the push to build the tower of Babel in order to better commune with the ‘gods’ and establish himself as one.
It is into this rich setting that Makir finds himself being called into fellowship with the one true God - Yaweh. The details of daily life are woven into a narrative based upon a literal, young earth perspective. The seminal works for children set in this time period such as Life in the Great Ice Age by Michael and Beverly Oard, pick up where Journey to the Ice leaves off – but are much less readable, with a stronger emphasis on hard fact relation over narrative story-building. The successful novelization of this period proves to be much more memorable and accessible than the work of the Oard’s (which I would still recommend as a follow-up title.)
The first two-thirds of the book are strongly written, with clear characterization and growing concern for Makir and his family as their city is divided after the confusion of languages and chaos ensues. As a newcomer to historical fiction, there are a couple of times where Slattery breaks into modern slang in her writing. The final third of the book is not written as descriptively as the previous portion. Slattery seems to skim hurriedly over the final events in the novel from a birds-eye view, and little compassion for Makir’s family is felt. Perhaps this is for the best when it comes to younger, sensitive children, as the family encounters hard times. Makir’s relationship with his creator also seems to take a backseat during this period.