The Throne of Ice and Ash (Book One of the Runewar Saga)

Book Reviews / Friday, May 28th, 2021

By: J. D. L. Rosell

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Publisher: Rune & Requiem Press

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Throne of Ice and Ash has all the elements of an excellent epic Norse-inspired fantasy. As Harrowhall of the city of Oakharrow burns, so does the jarl’s heirs, all except one, Bjorn. The jarls’ daughter Aelthena survives, but as a woman, she cannot lead. The jarl survives, but his mental state has declined. The devastation leaves chaos in its wake as to who is in control. Bjorn does not want the title as he always considered himself a scholar and a coward when it came to bloodshed and carrying out orders. Both Aelthena and Bjorn knows it is she who has both the strength and fortitude to carry Oakharrow forward. Despite tradition and law, she slips into the role of Lady Heir, taking charge to bring order to the city. To ease tensions, Bjorn is exiled for nearly killing a soldier. It is simply a ruse to send him on a dangerous mission to the north in winter to try and find those responsible. This book is action packed from the beginning. There is intrigue, struggles, betrayals and everything else you would want in an epic fantasy. The characters are excellent as is the world building. Mr. Rosell makes you want the characters to succeed and you will find it hard to put the book down as they go through the hardships they face. As an epic Norse fantasy, I highly recommend The Throne of Ice and Fire.

Summary (from Goodreads)

A throne in peril, a tragic betrayal, two heirs struggling to save their land, and a prophesied war threatening to engulf the world…
Bjorn, youngest heir to the Mad Jarl of Oakharrow, has always felt more at ease with a quill than a sword. Yet when calamity strikes his family, he must draw a blade and lead a company of warriors into the cold, deadly mountains in pursuit of a mysterious foe. Though he seeks vengeance, an ancient power stirs within him, and the whispers of prophecy beckon him toward an ominous destiny…
Aelthena, Bjorn’s sister, was born with the aptitude to lead, and she’s eager to prove it. But her society’s rules for women, and her love for her brother, restrain her efforts to command. As she walks the fine line between ambition and virtue, enemies of both mankind and myth rise against Oakharrow’s throne, and even her allies question her right to rule…
A harrowing tale of the struggle for power and the dawning heroes who rise above it, The Throne of Ice & Ash is Book 1 of the Norse high fantasy, coming of age series The Runewar Saga. Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire, The Lord of the Rings, and The Wheel of Time won’t want to miss this new sweeping epic fantasy! 

The Plot and Pace

As mentioned previously, The Throne of Ice and Ash is a fast-paced fantasy. The plot is not a typical Norse fantasy. There are similar elements in the jarl and the ruling family, but the similarities end there. The burning of Harrowhall and the aftermath make set it apart. As a fantasy, the reader is often looking for a source of a magic system. Yet, in this entry to the series, we see giants and strange, dangerous animals, the characters do not show any affinity for magic. There is none in this book. The destruction is attriubuted to magical evil forces, but it is none that they can defeat. I found this very interesting. In the book summary, there is magic alluled too, which leads one to believe it will show in subsequent books. It was a brilliant twist on the part of Mr. Rossell.

In the pacing, there was never a time when nothing was happening, no repetitiveness and anything that seemed like “page filler.” There were excellent action scenes interspersed with scenes that dealt with the intrigue going on in Oakharrow. Quite simply, it was hard to put down as the reader is left wanting to know all the twists and turns in the plot.

The Characters

Aelthena: While Aelthena may sound like the “strong female character taking charge” trope, it is very different. Yes, she is a strong character and goes against the law to take charge, he rushes headlong into a situation she is ill prepared for. With her brother exiled, she assumes she will be treated as “Lady Heir”, the next to rule Oakharrow. However, she faces both opposition and treachery. Her desire to rule seems all consuming. While she loves Bjorn and truly worries for his journey, she does feel that she can take her rightful place. Aelthena’s position often blinds her from what is truly going on in Oakharrow. She is an excellent character, a strong female, but not the trope.

Bjorn: Bjorn has absolutely no desire to rule. He is, in fact, the opposite of his sister. When he is “exiled” he is relieved not to have to make decisions he feels incapable of. Norse fantasy is filled with heroes, named men and plenty of battles. Bjorn is nothing like any character in Norse fantasy. Not only does he not want to rule, he does not want to be in battle. Bjorn often calls himself a coward as he does not live up to the standards of the men in his family or in Oakharrow. He does muster the courage to lead a group of men north to seek revenge on those who killed his family and the attack on Oakharrow.

Frey: Frey is Aelthena’s very loyal guardian. Where she goes, he follows and protects her. It is clear they have known each other a very long time as he often makes comments just to annoy her. She is engaged, but Frey is her guardian. He is worth noting because while Aelthena loves her fiancé, the reader often wonders where her heart truly lies. When her safety is threatened, it is Frey that protects her and will follow no matter the outcome.

World Building

Oakharrow is a typical Norse city. It has its poorer areas and the wealthier areas for the rich and ruling family. Why say the world building is excellent if it’s typical? Simple-that’s what makes it excellent. If the reader can imagine the intricacies of the tapestries and carvings of the great halls of Norse stories, the homes where they live, and the city, then the author has successfully created that world for the reader.

The venture by Bjorn into the northern mountains is harrowing, and the reader feels it. The trek feels real as they encounter a blizzard. Trudging through waist deep snow brings the reader on the journey, one that is not always pleasant.

Overall Thoughts

The Throne of Ice and Ash is a thrilling page-turning Norse epic fantasy. J.D.L. Rossell has written an excellent entry into the genre. There are well-developed characters that defy tropes, excellent world building, and excellent plot and pacing. While there is no magic system in this book, Mr. Rossell seems to be setting the reader up for more to come in the rest of the series. While the book does take place in a Norse inspired world, the descriptions are vivid and brings the world alive. This book was thrilling from beginning to end. It is an excellent fantasy and I highly recommend it.

You can find out more about J.D.L. Rossell at his website:
Purchase the Throne of Ice and Ash on Amazon
My thanks to Storytellers of Tour for an eBook in exchange for an honest review
My thank to J.D.L. Rossell for a signed copy of the book

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