Hambly, Barbara. 1998. Icefalcon's Quest. New York: Del Rey.

Reviewed 24 March 1998

Icefalcon's Quest
	(cover) What a contrast from the last book reviewed here (see M'Caffrey)! Ms. Hambly's latest effort is actually a real novel. It's not going to earn a WFA nomination, but it is certainly worth reading . . . and, at under 300 pages, it doesn't ramble on.

Icefalcon's Quest is ultimately about self-discovery. The Icefalcon makes an error that endangers both Tir and the Keep, and spends the remainder of the novel attempting to atone for the error. We get the chance to see a lot more of the White Raider culture in this book than in previous books in the Ingold Inglorion cycle. The White Raider culture is an integral part of that world, and it fits within its conception. Too many fantasy series tend to add other cultures for the sake of addition later, without building them into the entire world.

Equally important, Hambly does not make the mistake of retelling the previous books in this cycle with awkward prequels, characters telling each other things they already know, or other expository lumps. Instead, we get a stream of occasional, entirely natural references to previous events. Here's an example:

Remembered, too, the name of the Alketch general with a silver hook where his right hand should have been. He had betrayed the armies of daylight when they went against the Dark Ones in their Nests, pulled his men out of the fighting so that he could have his own army strong, left the men of the Keep to be killed. There were a lot of orphans in the Keep whose fathers and mothers had died there in the holocaust of fire and shadow.

This is how a semipanicked seven-year-old remembers--not a sudden "that's Vair, the dirty bastard," but an impression of how he was a dirty bastard. It allows the reader to draw a conclusion in the same way as the character did.

The plot also holds up reasonably well, although the result and means of the ultimate ending become rather obvious with about 100 pages to go. That problem aside, the plot develops logically, and the characters' ignorance that leads to some of the side plots, subplots, and plot complications is consistent with what we know of those characters.

Unfortunately, the postclimax resolution is very weak and not entirely consistent with what has gone before. (I've noticed this problem in several of Ms. Hambly's other books.) Although by now the "objective" conclusion concerning Icefalcon's character has been fairly obvious through three books in which he has been a significant player, the minisermon with which his shaman sister solemnly informs the Icefalcon that he's not a leader is cliched and overdone. This scene would have worked much better as another one of the stories the White Raiders tell each other, if it needed any exegesis. If the Icefalcon must hear this from someone else, he's probably not ready to accept it as readily as he does--particularly since it rather cheaply unwinds a major subplot.

Overall rating: 3 stars
Not without its flaws, but it has a plot, character development, and better-than-average worldbuilding and writing.

A Powell's Books Partner
  • You can buy this book on-line through Powell's Books. At this writing, it's available as a hardback.
  • the fine print first (you'll need to replace "{at}" with "@" on the address line). Please come back soon.
  • Return to Savage Reviews
  • Return to The Savage Beast (est. 1215): Literary Reviews and Resources on Speculative Fiction
Intellectual Property Rights: © 1998 John Savage. All rights reserved.
You may contact me concerning permissions via email. This copyright notice overrides, negates, and renders void any alleged copyright or license claimed by any person or entity, specifically including but not limited to any claim of right or license by any web hosting service or software provider, except when I have transferred such rights with a signed writing that complies with the requirements for transferring the entire copyright as specified in Title 17 of the United States Code. This includes, but is not limited to, translation or other creation of derivative works, use in advertising or other publicity materials without prior authorization in writing, or any other non-private use that falls outside the fair use exception specified in Title 17 of the United States Code. If you have any question about whether commercial use, publicity or advertising use, or republication in any form satisfies this notice, it probably does not. Violations of intellectual property rights in these pages will be dealt with swiftly using appropriate process of law, probably including a note to your mother telling her that you're a thief.
"The Savage Beast", "Savage Reviews", "Surreality Check", and the dragon-and-book banner are trade and service marks of the website owner. Other marks appearing on these pages belong to third parties, and appear either with permission or as exemplary references.