In the freezing Norwegian winter of 1581 the plague robs seventeen year-old Silje Arngrimsdotter of all her family. Homeless, starving and shepherding two newly-orphaned infants, she heads in desperation for the warmth of the funeral pyres blazing beyond the city gates of corpselittered Trondheim. In the shadowy forest she meets a captivating stranger – Tengel of the infamous Ice People. She has heard of his dark reputation but nevertheless feels an irresistible physical attraction. “Spellbound” sets the reader on an engrossing path through four centuries of the history of the ‘Ice People’. Earthy and often erotic, Sandemo’s saga is always imbued with a powerful narrative drive.
Review: (Video review)
Growing up with my mother loving Margit Sandemo’s books, this series has been on my TBR list for decades. I finally picked it up. I’m not sure I can say I was amazed, but maybe that is because I have lived with years of having someone hyping it up. I surely can’t say it disappointed either. However, I’m now in doubt if I will carry on reading the rest of the series. It is very long with almost fifty instalments. My summary of the first instalment ‘Spellbound’ is that it was mysterious and detailed in description, verging on slow, but it was interesting when you got to learn about the result of it all.
Message & Moral
Silje takes on two orphan children as she travels thought the plague infested Norwegian woods. She encounters a man who makes her help him save his friend who has been taken by the King’s guards. She then receives lodging and falls in love with a mystery man. The entire book then describes her life and how she becomes drawn to this outcast man living in a cottage hidden in the icy mountains. What is the message? Well Silje never gives up, even though life is tough and she doesn’t judge the man from the ice people, Tengel, by what others say about him. It is a nice message, however not very elaborate.
Creatures & Environment
The description of the environment in 1581 in Norway is in focus, and I have to admit, a setting in plague infested history isn’t my cup of tea. The people are ordinary and the use of magic is very limited, at least in this first instalment.
Captivation & Continuity
For some reason I do find Margit Sandemo’s way of writing appealing and although she hasn’t been elaborate in her magic system she does create a sense of mystery about Tengel that makes you want to find out how it all ends. This book was very popular in the 80s and feels the same as watching an 80s movie for the first time today, the book felt outdated. Can a book in 1581 feel outdated? It is set in the past. Well, I guess the realism with the book is that it is old-fashioned, and yet still works today. It all depends on the view from the eyes of the beholder I guess.
Language & Flow
The language is adequate. The story is originally written in Norwegian and translated into English and hence I suppose that some elements of the Norwegian culture, and the way Norwegian is constructed, are lost.
T.M. Caruana’s Invisible cloak Award