In 1845, two ships of the Royal Navy, the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus, led by Sir John Franklin, attempted to sail through the Arctic Circle looking for the Northwest Passage. This novel is a fictionalized account of the actual expedition. The ships would become trapped in the Arctic ice for several years. The men were faced with rancid food, freezing temperatures, and a creature that stalked the ships looking for human food.
When Franklin dies, Captain Francis Crozier takes command. An alcoholic, he tries to maintain discipline aboard the two ships while the men continue to die from both the predator and scurvy. A mysterious Inuit woman is captured and becomes a hostage. Because her tongue had been removed prior to her capture, she is unable to speak, but forms a relationship with members of the crew. Several men feel she may know the secret of the terror that lurks in the snowscape that has enclosed the two vessels in this land of ice and snow.
Dan Simmons kept me on the edge of my seat with suspense and his chapter-ending cliffhangers. He does a marvelous job describing the land, the misery and the fear felt by the sailors caught in a frozen land. As a reader, you’ll become attached to certain characters and hope they will survive the ordeal.
This is the first historical horror novel I’ve read, and Dan Simmons pulls it off with exceptional flair. If you enjoy reading novels that tend to cause the small hairs on the back of your neck to rise, you will want to read this extraordinarily well-written work.