________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 22 . . . . June 22, 2007


Grace and the Ice Prince. (The Diamond Heart Quest).

J.L. Scharf.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 2006.
262 pp., pbk., $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-897235-09-6.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Reece Steinberg.

*** /4


The glass of the mirror clouded over and Grace could no longer see her reflection. It happened so quickly that Grace almost let the fragile mirror slip from her fingers. She recovered and held the mirror firmly in both hands. At first there was nothing to see except a cloudy blur but slowly it melted away to reveal a winter scene of tall, snow-clad mountains against a white sky.

"This is like watching a movie," Grace exclaimed in wonder. "This isn't a mirror, it's a movie mirror!"

"What, may I inquire, is a movie?" asked Prince Owyn.

"It's a..." Grace stumbled. How does one describe a feature film to a medieval prince?


Imaginative 12-year old Grace can't tell her parents about the strange dreams and visions that she has been having of the Ice World. They would just think she was letting her imagination run away with her. When she is drawn outside in a snow storm and summons the Ice Prince, she is unsure what to do. Should she accompany the prince back to his home, where, he tells her, her name is known throughout the land? His persistence that her presence is necessary to save both worlds from disaster scares her, but the images he shares are enticing. She hesitates to leave with a stranger –  and without being able to tell her parents!

     Split between the everyday world (during a typical Canadian winter) and the Ice World, this fantasy novel combines humour and adventure. Grace's blunt, matter-of-fact speech contrasts with the refined phrasing of the royalty of the Ice World in her believable response to discovering another world. Where the heroines of some fantasy novels may unthinkingly accept the existence of an alternate world, or accept an offer to join the world, Grace does not. She shows the street-smarts and the suspicion of strangers with which young readers will likely identify, as well as the reluctance to believe in something so unusual, even when the evidence is overwhelming. Throughout the book, Grace demonstrates creative and ingenious responses to her surroundings, including using an offered "wish" from the Ice Prince, Owyn, to wish him back to his own world. Grace is an example of a strong, young, female character who knows her own mind.

     Full of vivid descriptions of the icy surroundings, the writing will appeal to fantasy readers who like to visualize the settings, clothing and characters of the stories they read. A medieval tavern, the ice kingdom, and even the Canadian blizzard, inspired by the Montreal ice storms of 1998, give many opportunities for rich, detailed writing. At the same time, this book is quite action-oriented and begins with an enticing backstory of a runaway princess which will hook readers.

     A drawback of the book, which may not be so in the eyes of some readers, is the long dialogues by royalty in the Ice World. These pages filled with antiquated words and phrasing do set the mood of the book well but may be frustrating or distracting for readers. Grace, however, is also frustrated with this type of speech, and so these readers may be placated by her response.

     The cover art of this book, a wispy fairylike woman, is attractive, sufficiently mature looking, and will appeal to young female fantasy readers, for whom this book is intended.


Reece Steinberg, a librarian at Vancouver Public Library, currently works in the Business & Science, and Virtual Library divisions.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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