Solveig’s father, a Norse king, has sent her and her siblings away to a remote fortress to protect them while he is at war with a rival king. During the long Scandinavian winter, the three children, a handful of household staff, and two dozen warriors wait for the ice to melt so they can return home. To escape the dullness of the endless days indoors, Solveig befriends the official storyteller, the skald. The skald agrees to teach Solveig his craft, and Solveig learns that she has a natural gift for storytelling. Because she is not as pretty as her sister and not as valuable as her brother, Solveig revels in the praise she earns as a skald. But when the warriors mysteriously begin to die, Solveig and the others realize there is a traitor among them. But who is it? And when will he strike next?
This novel has something for everyone. It is mythical historical fiction that borrows from the great Norse epics, yet it is told in the classic whodunit style. This makes Icefall a page-turning mystery with lots of great action sequences. However, Kirby transcends both genres by writing Solveig as an insecure girl on the verge of womanhood, trying to find her place in a society that values women only for their beauty. Solveig’s discovery of her own value is as compelling a narrative as the mystery of the secret traitor. Ages 9-12.