The Ice House by Tim Clare, published by Canongate Press, is the sequel to his book The Honours. While many of the same characters from the first book appear, there is one tiny caveat, it is now 70 years later. Delphine, the lead in the first book, is no longer a headstrong 13 year old, she’s now a cantankerous and headstrong senior citizen.
However, she hasn’t give up her quest to find a way into the other world, Avalonia, in order to try and rescue her friends and family who crossed over so many decades ago. While the Internet has made her search for various anomalies easier, it’s also exposed her to wacko conspiracy theories, the occasional kook, and maybe some people who know the truth. Thankfully for her it’s the latter who track her down.
While Delphine is based in England, this time Clare has set most of the book in Avalonia. Here we meet Hagar, who although centuries old is still in the body of a young girl. She is the valet of Grand Duke Morgellon. He is what’s known as a peer, a being who has the ability to grant immortality to those around them.
However this is not the gift one might think it is. For not only can peers heal almost instantly from any wound, the ones they’ve inflicted with endless life feel their pain for them.
When Duke Morgellon is slashed by a sword, shot with a bullet, or even cuts himself, it’s Hagar who experiences the pain. Which makes her goal of trying to kill him somewhat complicated. Killing him, she figures, will not only rid the world of a great evil, but also just might free her from endless servitude.
However, she’s going to need help. She’s told by another peer, one who seems to have the ability to travel in time, that help will come, in the shape of a young woman from another world, Delphine. You see Delphine’s father is one of those was taken to Avalonia back in the 1930s, and he is a key to helping Hagar rid the world of her master.
Clare does a remarkable job of creating this new world for us without doing anything more than describing Hagar’s activities over the course of a few centuries. We follow her through the years as she gradually learns more and more about discovering the means to kill Moregellon and gradually eliminate those who might help him or stand in her way.
While at times you might get a bit lost following the various turns and twists in time and location the story takes, be patient, because Clare gradually brings all his threads together and weaves something wonderful. Like the most intricate of spider webs each strand is a key element that when pulled will echo throughout the whole story.
As in the first book Clare’s characters are complex. We may have to watch and listen to learn what motivates them, but the wait is rewarding. He’s also added the interesting twist of when a person from earth travels to Avalonia, he or she lose around 70 years of age. So Delphine and her companion Alice go from being in their 80s to be teenagers again when they make the crossing.
Watching the two women come to grips with the fact they are no longer trapped in they age riddled bodies is fascinating. It’s not an easy transition for either of them as they have to get used to not only having bodies which can move easily but adjust themselves mentally to understand their lack of limitations.
If you still expect arthritic pain when you bend over, you will still be hesitant in your movements. Clare brings that reality to life for us as both Delphine and Alice slowly come to feel at home with their new reality.
The Ice House is a wonderful story. The perfect example of how fantasy, horror, and adventure can be melded together without it being a gore fest or exploitive. The characters are great, the action superb and the world making as interesting as you’ll find anywhere. Clare has also left the us with a rather inconclusive ending, meaning there’s hope for another book in the series.