Val, a linguist who specializes in dead languages, is processing the recent loss of her twin and living with crippling anxiety, when a girl is found frozen in ice near where her brother died in the Arctic. The girl was thawed out alive, and Val is asked to come and try to figure out what language the girl speaks, but she also hopes to find out what really happened to her brother.
This is a thriller with science fiction elements, and it has a beautiful textured cover that the photograph can’t really capture. I think the title is a bit cheesey, I think it deserves a better one. That said, this book was fine, but never quite came together for me.
I like books and movies set in icy, remote locations, like The Thing or Memoirs of Stockholm Sven. There’s something chilling (no pun intended) about the harshness of life in end-of-the-earth places like that, how easily things could go wrong, how far away help is, and the ever present threat of cabin fever. The location itself sometimes feels like a menacing character that wishes no one any good, and you have automatic tension. So, I should like this book.
I also think the premise is really good. How was this girl frozen in ice? Who is she? Is this real or faked? Add into this that there’s Val still coming to terms with her brother’s death and hints that something was not so straight forwards there, and you have a good set up.
But it feels like nothing happens. Val has crippling anxiety, but she manages to go out of her comfort zone to the arctic. And then nothing really happens with that. If you left that out of the story, it would be the same. A lot of the book is taken up with just describing life there. This is what they eat. This is what they do. This is what they wear. I never felt like we went that deeply into Val’s relationship with her brother, it never felt like a rounded relationship to me. It’s more like a secondary plotline. We get a lot of Val trying to talk to the girl, but not knowing which language she speaks, and it feels like the girl comes into the room, is frustrated and goes back to bed, almost all the way through the book. Because Val can’t communicate with her, there’s not a lot of character there. I didn’t care about her all that much. And then there’s hints of climate change science fiction, but it’s a minor thing. The book reads like a thriller and then there’s these small hints at sci fi that never come front and center. Finally, at the end, Val has a conversation with her father, who she has a fraught relationship with, and in her absence, he’s done a complete personality 180 and all is wrapped up and forgiven. That felt odd. The explanation behind the girl felt half done to me as well. I wanted to know more about her, and about how the whole thing worked, but we never get into it that much. We do get a lot of description about diving under the ice and how collecting samples there works. Which felt like a distraction.
I didn’t hate this book, I just didn’t love it, didn’t really get into it. It’s not bad, but it was a bit slow for me and just felt like it was skimming the surface and not quite delivering the punches like it should. That said, my boyfriend also loves this kind of setting for a story, so I asked him to read it for a different opinion, and so far, he’s enjoying it.
Read It If: the premise intrigues you and you like extreme arctic settings. This one has it’s good points, even if it doesn’t completely hit the spot.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the copy of this book for review.