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The Anvil of Ice by Michael Scott Rohan
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The Anvil of Ice (1986)

by Michael Scott Rohan

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it has been many years since I read such a first-class heroic fantasy. I missed it when it came out in the 80s -perhaps because I was in Korea in 87-88--only discovered it now because Cakebread and Walton put out a game based on it. it clears only something to Tolkien (the Dead Marshes, the duergar) , perhaps also LeGuin (the Ekwash are a little like her sea-raiders in Earthsea, only nastier --seagoing cannibalistic Mongols.) even a name (Nordenay) from Barringer --likely due to the writer's Yorkshire connections. Logically there are some inconsistencies -- fairskinned people living for centuries in a southern California cliate have ever tanned, for one thing. But the sweep of the story carries it long. Alv, an orphaned thrall, grows up harshly treated in a northern town --it is sacked by the Ekwash, and he is bought from them by Mastersmkith Mylio , a highly skilled but coldly amoral man whose magic broke the town's defenses. He recognizes lAlv has inherted the magical smith skills of the old northern people now interbred with the equivalent of Amerinds who fled the Ekwash from the equivalent of Asia) . The smith takes him to his (Orthanc-like) castle in the far north near the encroaching ice --which has an evil mind, or minds, of its own --and trains him in smithmagic. Alv's first apprentice piece is a gold armring he gives to Kara, a girl in the service of powerful evil lady Louhi (name from Finnish legend) who seems to rank higher in he service of the ice than the mastersmith. His next is a dernhelm for the smith; his third a Damascus-steel sword woven with commanding magic.That he completes himself (contrary to the smith's order ) -- the smith's journeyman, whom, he tricked into helping his research into the smith's books, is destroyed by the smith's magic. Alv himself escapes, seems to have lost his powers, but regains them working as a smith in the marshes that separate the north from he rich cities of the south. He gains a sword from a dead man I the marshes and joins corsairs who counterraid the Ekwash raiders, led by the Aragorn-like Kermorvan. ( )
  antiquary | Jul 20, 2015 |
TBR
  Ebeth.Naylor | Sep 30, 2013 |
The Anvil of Ice reminds me of a lot of other fantasy I've read -- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Magician by Raymond E. Feist, for a start -- in its narration and in the way it begins. Some parts of it I found very interesting and different: the whole idea of the Ice, for one, which I want to know more about.

On the other hand, Kara bothered me. She was introduced in a flash; Alv/Elof cares about her all in a flash; she never seems to do anything significant to the plot. Obviously there are two more books in the trilogy, but she seemed somewhat superfluous in this.

I found the gods here interesting, too, and wanted more about them: we learn very little about them, all things considered. I do like the way we don't get infodumps in this book: we don't know the whole history of the world, the whole mythology of the gods.

Another slightly annoying thing: racial stereotyping. All Ekwesh are evil, hurrhurrhurr -- without any further thought than that. I do like subtlety in my fantasy. Again, perhaps something that's resolved in the other two books, or at least alleviated. I will be picking those up at some point: I am intrigued, though it took me about half the book to feel really enthusiastic. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
When it comes to fantasy, there's Tolkien, and there are the rest. This series is the very best of the rest in my opinion; there's nothing 'generic-fantasy' about it.

Set in an interglacial period in our own Earth's history, this is the story of the struggles of a group of friends as they try to defeat the powers of the Ice. There's the same haunting sense of the weight of history, the same glimpses of things half-seen, half-known that I found in Tolkien; plus a carefully worked out system of magic that's completely convincing. Moreover MSR has done his research on palaeoenvironments, and it shows - right down to the trees and flowers. I loved the description of the black grouse and their courtship dance. Half a sentence but he's got them down to a T!

I've got two sets of this series and a book on Wayland the Smith I bought for background reading. To sum up: it's one of my desert island books. ( )
1 vote hyarrowen | May 9, 2012 |
An intelligent fantasy influenced by Northern European myth and tradition, based around the world of an Apprentice Smith. There is more depth than much of the fantasy that appeared during the 1980's. As with the book itself, the characters have depth, and I will be happy to venture further into the series with the next volume 'The Forge in the Forest' First novels in a trilogy/series are hard because they involve so much back story and scene setting, but the book held my interest throughout.

4 Stars ( )
  cosmicdolphin | Jan 3, 2011 |
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When a coastal village is attacked by the seafaring, cannibalistic Ekwesh, a young thrall, Alv, is spared by their leader, Mylio the Mastersmith. In the shadow of the Great Ice, the sinister Mylio makes the boy his apprentice. Thus starts the journey for Alv (later named Elof) who discovers the ability within himself to smith items of power beyond what he or others imagine. His journeys take him to the deepest mountains of the duerger and to the lands of the children of the forest then to the battlements of the Southerners where he alone may have the ability to turn the tides of the coming Ice.
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