Third in her Watch Eyes trilogy, Arctic Will concludes Sundell’s metaphysical saga of a sled dog family and their Siberian native owners in early 20th-century Alaska. A husky trainer herself, the author’s devoted connection to the magnificent breed permeates her work. The story opens with our Chukchi heroine, Anya, paralyzed with grief after her apparent rejection by both her father and her beloved Scandinavian mariner, Rune Johannson; as well as the loss of her most beloved huskies, Zellie, Mushroom and Xander. Her fellow tribesman, Vitya, Rune’s rival, is left to care for her. He longs for her to return his love.
The living material plane mingles with the Shamanic spirit world as the independence and very existence of the Siberian husky and the Chukchi people are threatened by Joseph Stalin. Sundell’s most fascinating literary device is her portrait of Stalin as half-man and half-demon, a vision reminiscent of Norman Mailer’s Hitler in The Castle in the Forest. Guardian spirits, human, canine and divine, meet in a final battle with the maleficent monster, as Rune and Vitya battle for the heart of Anya.
Numerous subplots and characters add Arctic ambiance, if little dimensionality. We witness a dog race, a seal hunting expedition, and a shipwreck. The long list of names of the novel’s canine and human characters is occasionally burdensome to a reader who has not followed the entire series. The action is well paced, however, and Sundell’s passion for her subject carries the book. If you like Jack London, you will like Joanne Sundell.