Literature / The Icemark Chronicles
The Icemark Chronicles
is a trilogy of books by British writer Stuart Hill. The trilogy takes place in a world so full of counterpart cultures
that it may as well be a straight-out parallel world. Most of the action takes place in the Icemark, a 'tiny kingdom' in the north, and the Icesheets even further north. The Icemark is British/Norse in feel. The main antagonists are the Polypontian Empire: basically Romans with better technology. There are also the Desert People, who are Muslim Arabs, the Lusu people who seem to be based on the Zulu, and the Venettians (from Venezzia) and Hellenes(Greeks). The books are a huge success in the United Kingdom, although they're fairly obscure in the United States.
The books are, in order:
Thirrin Freer Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield
- The Cry of the Icemark (2005)
, fourteen-year-old protagonist, becomes Queen of the Icemark when her father, King Redrought, is killed in battle against the invading Polypontian army. Unfortunately this battle also wipes out the Icemark's entire army, so Thirrin has to do some pretty fast organising and treaty-making over the winter to fend off a second invasion. With their new friends and allies, including werewolves, giant Snow Leopards, vampires, the Kings of the Great Forest
, and a young warlock (no, not that kind
) named Oskan, the Icemark faces up to the seemingly undefeatable General Scipio Bellorum and his very, very big army. They win, but Bellorum escapes
, leaving things open for
Set twenty years after the end of the first book, the Icemark prepares for another invasion by Bellorum. This time, he has two sons and a fleet of bombing airships
to help him. The Icemark High Command decides to evacuate the entire civilian population, including the youngest son of Thirrin and Oskan, Charlemagne Athelstan Redrought Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield
, or 'Sharley' considering that nobody can really be bothered to say his whole name. Sharley, more than a little annoyed at being sent away, takes it upon himself to carry on his mother's alliance-forging work and make friends with the Desert People, with the help of his elderly tutor Maggiore Totus and Crown Prince Mekhmet of said People. Mekhmet suggests they go south to bring the Lusu people into their fight, the Lusu Queen hardly needs persuading, and they return to the Icemark in a just-in-time
blaze of glory. Hurrah! A subplot involves Sharley's one-year-older sister Medea dabbling in Dark magics. How exciting it is compared to the main plot is a matter of opinion, but it sets things up for
- Last Battle of the Icemark (2008)
With the defeat of the Polypontians at the end of the second book, Hill needed a new antagonist. He settled on Erinor of Artemision and her dinosaur cavalry
(Triceratops used like war elephants, if you're wondering), and Oskan's father Cronus
, his Ice Demons and his new Dragon
. Erinor's dinosaur cavalry move in on what remains of the Polypontian Empire, fully intending to move on to the Icemark afterwards. Responding to a plea for help from the Empire, a reluctant Thirrin leads her army into the heart of what was once enemy territory, leaving the Icemark open for an invasion from the Darkness. Cronus' invasion is but an attempt to force Oskan's hand, either to tempt him to join the Dark and make them invincible, or to destroy him so no mortal may stand against Cronus and his eventual invasion of the heavens.
Instead of any great battle with trebuchets and fire, Oskan sacrifices himself to make use of an ancient curse that destroys magic-users who slay their own kin, defeating Cronus and Medea.
- Prince of the Icemark (2013)
The prequel is set 20 years before The Cry Of The Icemark. When the King is killed, his brother Prince Redrought must rally the country and lead them into enemy territory to fight the vampires, zombies and werewolves of The-Land-of-the-Ghosts. The prequel also tells the story of how Redrought met Thirrin's mother. It's only available in the UK
- Action Girl: Thirrin in the first book. She then matures into Lady of War and Action Mom, and this role is taken by her daughter Cressida.
- Action Mom: Thirrin. In the second and third books, anyway.
- The Alliance: The Icemark and its many allies. It is referred to as 'the alliance' frequently in the books, though they only get a capital letter in the third.
- Angsty Surviving Twin: Eodred after Cerdic's death . He gets better.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Just about anyone from the Icemark.
- Badass Family: The royal family of the Icemark, in all three books. and the royal vampires at the end of LBotI, because vampire kiddies kick butt
- Big Damn Heroes: The allies in the first book, Sharley and the new allies in the second book.
- Big Eater: King Grishmak of the werewolves eats a whole ox more than once during the trilogy. But then, he is a werewolf. Tharaman-Thar as well.
- Boisterous Bruiser:
- King Redrought. If they make a film, BRIAN BLESSED should play him.
- Queen Ketshaka III from the second book is another example.
- Cain and Abel: Medea has an ice-cold hatred of her youngest brother because she feels that her parents love him more than herself. Unfortunately, this is true, and it results in her becoming EVIL!
- The Cavalry: There's a moment like this in almost every climactic battle in the books. Somehow the author makes it work.
- Changed My Mind, Kid: The Vampires in Blade of Fire.
- Children Are Innocent: Averted with Medea.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Thirrin in the first book, Charlemagne in the second, and Titus in the third.
- Combat by Champion: In Cry of the Icemark, a general on the villains' side challenges the heroes' queen to single combat to decide the war between their lands. The deal is that if he wins, she surrenders Icemark, and if she wins, he leaves. Though Thirrin realizes and notes that this would only keep them away until a new general comes along, they do battle anyway.
- Conflicting Loyalty: The Vampires (fighting for a country that they have a 1000 year history of mutal hatred with, not to mention defeated them when they last attempted to invade), The Polypontians (Joining The Nation That Destroyed Their Empire), The Hypolitan (fighting People From Their Homeland) & Medea
- Cool S Word: Blade Of Fire
- Creepy Child: Medea
- Creepy Monotone: Medea
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Goddess. An argument could be made for Oskan too.
- Deadpan Snarker: Their Vampiric Majesties and occasionally Oskan, often when being needled by the former.
- Disney Villain Death: Hundreds of Polypontian Soldiers and vampires fall to their deaths from the Sky Navy in Blade Of Fire.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Olememnon's death in Last Battle of the Icemark is completely off-screen, and Pious merely tells Tharaman-Thar and Krisafitsa-Tharina that he is dead. That's it.
- Duel to the Death: Bellorum and His Vampiric Majesty, on a sky ship no less. Bellorum wins by calling up musketeers armed with special shot (so many in fact that it could well count as a Wall of Weapons trope too), but that's OK because he gets his ass handed to him later in the book, the cheating scum.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Medea
- Emotionless Girl: Medea
- The Empire: The Polypontian empire.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The Icemark Chronicles's third book has the enemy Basilea use 'Tri-Horns' as cavalry. Three guesses as to what they are.
- Everyone Can See It: Hinted at in The Cry of the Icemark, when Maggie offhandidly assumes that Oskan going to be Thirrin's consort, implying everyone was aware of their feelings. (But obviously had more important things to worry about).
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture - Many. The Icemark (Britain/Scandinavia), the Polypontian Empire (Romans), the Desert People (Ottomans), the Lusu (Zulu?), Venezzia (Venice, and its associated trading republic)...
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Happens in almost every book, getting even more fantastical as the series goes on.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Oskan is the son of White Annis, a human witch; and Cronus, a fallen angel/spirit.
- Happily Married: Thirrin and Oskan in the second and third books.
- Hellgate: Sharley, Mekhmet & Kirimin get lured into The Plain Of Desolation By Medea. Oskan opens up a gate to send Medea to The Spirit Realms. Cronus sends his invading army of Ice Demons to The Physical Realm through a gateway.
- Henpecked Husband: Subverted. Oskan sometimes acts like this, but isn't afraid to tell Thirrin when she's out of line. Thirrin even tells Cressida that its important to have a consort who will keep you accountable.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Oskan. Twice.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sharley and Mekhmet. Also, Eodred and Howler.
- Hot Consort: Oskan and Leonidas for Thirrin and Cressida respectively, both of whom are pretty hot as well; Their Vampiric Majesties.
- Hypothetical Casting: Word of God says Redrought was based on BRIAN BLESSED and should be played by him.
- Intellectual Animal: The Snow Leopards, particularly their king, Tharaman-Thar.
- Karma Houdini: Bellorum, at least at the end of the first book. After causing unimaginable suffering in his quest to conquer the Icemark, he...escapes. He gets his ass handed to him at the end of the second book, however (even if he got off lightly; see the To The Pain entry below)
- Lady Land: The Hypolitan. Taken Up to Eleven by the southern Hypolitan in book 3.
- Lady of Black Magic: Medea
- Lady of War: Thirrin, Cressida, and most of the Hypolitan.
- Lowest Cosmic Denominator: The Fantasy Counterpart Culture's all have the religions of their real-world cultures, but with different names.note
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Thirrin and Oskan.
- Meaningful Name:
- With Scipio Bellorum, at least. Scipio was a real-world Roman general; 'Bellorum' is Latin for 'of battles' (I think). Also Medea: knowing a little bit about Greek mythology tips you off immediately that there's something not-quite-right about this kid.
- Bellorum's sons, Sulla and Octavian, are also named after Roman generals, both of them absolutely ruthless in combat.
- The Mole: Medea
- The Multiverse: Practically every nation mentioned is based on a real one just Twisted slightly. The Polypontus (Romans), Venezzians (Venice), Hellenes (Greek), Desert Kingdom (Ottomans), Lusu (Zulu), Hyplita/Artemisions (Amazonian Greeks)& the Icemark (Norse). There are also refrences To Dacians, Gallians, Iberians, Zephyrs. And LBOTI mentions kingdoms named after leaders titles (Khan and Potantate)
- Never My Fault: Medea cannot bring herself to admit that she is responsible for her own evil, believing that the Parental Favoritism for her brother Sharley is responsible for the way she is.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Hun Dinosaur cavalry!
- Our Vampires Are Different: Except they're not. Icemark Vampires are pretty much your typical Dracula-esque vampire: they sleep in coffins, they're only killed by fire, beheading and the usual stake through the heart, they turn into bats, they don't like sunlight, etc. It's a playing straight that appears so little that it's practically a subversion. There are, however, the vampiris arcticus vampires, who don't mind sunlight. Bellorum took this badly.
- Overly Long Name: Thirrin's entire family (except Oskan & Medea).
- Panthera Awesome: The Snow Leopards. The capital letters are important.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Pretty much every damn person in the Icemark.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: This series is pretty much just about this trope, with the Royal family of the Icemark, the Vampire King and Queen, the Snow Leopard Thar and Tharina, Prince Mekhmet, Queen Ketshaka... the list goes on. Pretty much every single royal that appears gets to fight.
- Rule of Cool: Lots of this. Talking Giant Snow Leopards! Sky Navy! Werewolves! Vampires! Undead! Dinosaur cavalry!
- Schizo Tech: The Icemark seems to be stuck in the Dark and Middle Ages, using longbows, trebuchets and ballistae. The Polypontians (based on the people who invented ballistae) are much more technologically advanced, using muskets, matchlock pistols, cannons with wheels, and airships
- Science Is Bad: Subverted and played straight. Oskan the Warlock insists frequently that science itself is not bad, pointing to Thirrin's (and later Sharley's) amiable scientist tutor Maggiore as an example. However, everyone agrees that science as used by the Polypontians — of the "stamp out everything unscientific and take over the world" kind — is bad.
- Shout-Out: Many in the Vampire names. Bramorius Stokescu and Christophoray Leela, anyone? How about Lugosi?
- Succession Crisis: Though it never comes to be, This is one of Thirrin's main worries in Cry Of The Icemark. She marks a relative to reign while she is gone, and if she doesn't come back, that line takes over—which goes straight to the whole foreign ruler trouble. To make matters worse, there is no one else who can claim to be an heir—Thirrin is only just fourteen, and childless (obviously).
- To the Pain: Averted. Her Vampiric Majesty threatens to give a captured Bellorum an unimaginably slow and painful death, but Thirrin kills him before she gets the chance.
- Trilogy Creep: The Icemark Chronicles was originally supposed to be a trilogy, but then the prequel came out.
- Two Roads Before You: In Cry of the Icemark, the warlock has a choice between being good and being evil, and there is a very specific point in the text where he chooses: Simple, easy and powerful, or good? The choice was obvious. And then Thirrin spoke. Medea has the same choice to make in Blade Of Fire but she doesn't follow her father's example.
- The Undead: There are pretty typical zombies that show up every now and then.
- Unexplained Recovery: Played straight by Oskan in the first book.
- Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Lucretia and Belisarius. Slightly inverted as they were designed that way (for want of a better word) as part of a deliberate Babies Ever After.
- Vampire Monarch: All the vampires are ruled over by two ancient vampires known only as Their Vampiric Majesties.
- Villain Protagonist: Their Vampiric Majesties, The Polypontians, and to a lesser degree Medea
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Used after a fashion in Last Battle. Cressida neither means nor wants her proposal to be wacky, but she's so awkward and hesitant in spitting it out that eventually a couple of eavesdropping guards do it for her.
- Warrior Prince (and princesses for that matter): Practically all of them except for Medea (and Sharley in the beginning).
- Wartime Wedding: Olememnon and Olympia in Blade of Fire. Justified since it happens because the Basilea needed a consort and Thirrin thought a marriage ceremony would boost morale. (And they were already in a relationship.)
- Wolf Man: The werewolves are described to be much like this.
- You Mean "Xmas": The Yule celebration. Seems justified at first in that many Christmas traditions do come from the Yule festival celebrated by Northern Germanic peoples, whom the Icemark is based on; but actually played straight in that they have a Santa analogue, which the real Yule celebrations did not.