In two quick bounds, Thirteen was out of the cockpit and up on the black deck. It was the only part of the skimmer that wasn’t white. Throughout the day it absorbed the heat of the sun and passed it to the cabin below. Thirteen gave the trigger on the winch a quick push and the rope under the railing a little tug. The switches were cocked. Everything was set. She glanced to stern.
Beyond the tall tail and stabilizer that were useless at this slow speed, the power turbine whirled. Via gears in the stern and deck and the belts that ran the length of the ship, it connected to the winch. When she needed power, it’d be ready. Beyond the turbine she watched the slavers.
They ought to see her soon even without a scope. Time to give them something to see.
Thirteen lives on the ice, baiting smugglers and earning the epithet of Ghost as she kills any slave traders unfortunate enough to cross her path. An escaped slave herself, with skin and eyes that seem uniquely well adapted to life on the ice sheet, Thirteen’s past is shrouded in mystery — she doesn’t even know her own birth name, let alone why she’s different to everyone else. But she knows one thing: she has a sister, and she’s determined to find her.
Cord’s ship has been wrecked, along with half of his convoy, and it’s only luck that he finds himself in Thirteen’s path. She isn’t in the habit of picking up stragglers, but when he gives away the fact that he’s seen eyes like hers before, she reluctantly brings him aboard her ship. Realising that their alliance will hold only as long as he keeps back his information, though, he decides he needs her help to rescue his kidnapped daughter before he tells her what he knows. Cord was probably my favourite character. He’s friendly and warm, even when faced with Thirteen’s frosty demeanour, and he’s deeply devoted to his daughter. And I loved watching as Thirteen gradually comes to terms with his presence in her usually-private world.
There are also a few scenes set in the court of the King, who is growing increasingly troubled by the Ghost’s disruption of his operations. Of those who populate the court, no-one really came across as likeable or even ethical, but there was plenty of political intrigue and it felt like a number of potential threads of plot were being set up for future books. The shift of perspective also gave context to the trouble that was heading after Thirteen and Cord, emphasising just how serious things were about to get.
I was absolutely hooked on the ice-bound setting from page one. You can feel the constant, creeping cold in every scene, and I’d dearly love to fly across sheet ice in a ship with skates and sails. There were just enough hints to place the story on Earth, an indeterminate number of years into the future, in the depths of a new ice age, and the resulting culture is more interesting and anarchic than most dystopian novels. I’ll be looking out for the sequel, as I can’t wait to find out more about Thirteen and her sister.
Published last month, Iced is the first book in M. Terry Green’s new series. Her urban fantasy Techno Shaman series, now complete, kicks off with Shaman, Healer, Heretic which I’ve previously reviewed.