Frostfire (2019), by Jamie Smith, is a middle-grade fantasy set in the mountainous land of Adranna. Adranna lies in the shadow of the great peak of Aderast, and all of its magic comes from the shimmering glacier that flows from it. A handful of young people are chosen each year to climb to the glacier and claim a small piece of it, a frostsliver, which gives them special abilities and marks them as people of importance in Adranna’s society.
Sabira is a fourteen-year-old girl who has been chosen to receive a frostsliver. The novel opens as she is making her climb. The narrative then flashes back to the previous year, when Sabira’s brother Kyran was chosen. Tensions have been growing with the neighboring nation of Ignata, and after an Ignatian raiding party attacked Sabira’s family, everything started going wrong for Kyran. Now he is missing, and Sabira is determined to succeed for both his sake and her own.
It won’t be easy, though — an avalanche strikes Aderast and cuts Sabira off from the rest of the world. Now she must survive the mountain’s harsh conditions and find a way back home, while alone and injured and working with a magic she doesn’t yet understand. What follows is an exciting, grueling adventure tale. The Ignatian threat has a role to play too, as does Kyran’s mysterious fate.
The conflict between Adranna and Ignata is more nuanced than one might expect from children’s fiction. The Ignatian leader is a bad guy, but it’s clear that not all of Ignata’s citizens, or even all of the army, agree with his methods. And the Ignatians’ anger is rooted in a real problem that will need to be dealt with if a peace is to be achieved. What Sabira learns on her journey might help her shape both countries’ futures when she is older, if she can make it back alive.
I sometimes had trouble visualizing where locations were, in relation to each other. My copy was an ARC, so maybe there will be a map in the finished book. I also have some questions about geology that probably qualify as “overthinking it.”
I recommend Frostfire to middle-grade readers looking for a good adventure with lots of derring-do. The setting and magic are unique, the family relationships are touching, and the heroine is inspiring.