Spellbound by Margit Sandemo (The Legend of the Ice People: Book 1)

8/10 Spellbound is an historical fantasy novel bursting at the seams with romance.

Spellbound is set on Norway's northern coast is 1581. The plague has robbed sixteen-year old Silje of her family and home and fate has placed two abandoned children in her care. Silje leaves the corpse-strewn streets of Trondheim and heads towards the warmth of the mass funeral pyres. On route Silje encounters one of the infamous Ice People, a fearsome and strangely captivating 'wolf-man' whom she feels irresistibly drawn towards.

This is a story of two young women, one a peasant, the other a noble. The year is 1581 and we are audience to the unfolding of both their destinies. The fantasy elements introduced into Spellbound are subtle, the locations very much 'real' world. The story began well, I immediately felt involved and found the narrative pleasingly paced. I was able to easily visualise the freezing plague-infested town of Trondheim and to feel the hopelessness of those seized in its grip. Spellbound is a linear story with each chapter building upon its predecessor to form a sparkling narrative.

As yet, the child had not caught sight of her. Silje was so exhausted that she could not think quickly, but she knew that she alone among her own family had survived. She had been wandering through the town, amongst its dead and dying for a long time now without becoming infected and so did not fear for herself. But what of the little girl? She had a slim chance of escaping the illness and were she to stay here, alone with her dead mother, she would have no chance at all.

From: Spellbound by Margit Sandemo

The main characters in Spellbound are Silje, Tengel and Charlotte. Silje is a peasant girl who has lost her family to the plague and as a result has had her life turned upside down. Tengel is one of the Ice People and carries the curse of his ancestry. Charlotte is noble-born, pregnant by a married man and forced to abandon her child to certain death in order to avoid dishonour to both herself and her family. All three characters are described in detail but Tengel, of the Ice People, is by far the most interesting. The main relationship in the story is that of Silje and Tengel, a love story that occurs during Silje's sexual awakening and passage into adulthood.

Margit Sandemo uses third-person narrative throughout Spellbound and this style allows the author to smoothly change the perspective from one major character to another. The Norwegian setting was described in clear detail, the plague-infested city of Trondheim and the mountainous beauty of the lands of the Ice People stay with you long after the novel is finished. “I was fascinated by all the dead bodies,” says Margit Sandemo on Shakespeare's King Lear - this fascination shows clearly in the portrayal of the corpse-strewn, plague-infested city of Trondheim. The feelings and attitudes of Silje and Charlotte are well realised, Margit Sandemo's own life allowed her to the live the life of both the highest born and the poor, and this is knowledge that she draws on well to make the characters' mannerisms, thoughts and actions realistic. It was a good story, full of history, fantasy and romance and my favourite moments in the book were when the conniving, mean-spirited woman called Abelone enters the story; every book needs a character like this, one who deserves to meet a nasty end. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Spellbound; it's most powerful effect was to make me think it was winter outside my door when it was in fact the middle of summer.

I learned a great deal about 16th century Norway whilst reading Spellbound, in particular the Reformation of Norway that took place between 1537 and 1596 and The Union with Denmark. If I had to compare Spellbound to any other books that I have read I would firstly say that the style of narration reminded me somewhat of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. These comparisons came mostly to mind in the instances when the narration itself speaks, much as a storyteller would, to emphasise a point. For example “This is a very strange night she thought. But this was just the beginning!” Spellbound was the first Margit Sandemo book that I have ever read but I would not hesitate to recommend her work to others. Spellbound by Margit Sandemo is an historical fantasy novel bursting at the seams with romance.

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Margit Sandemo's The Legend of the Ice People series


The Legend of the Ice People: Book 1

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