Firstly, I’d like to thank D. W Ross for sending me a copy of Cold from the North and also congratulate the cover designer, Cherie Chapman, for producing a very enticing and beautiful cover!
Cold from the North is a Nordic-inspired tale, which is one of my favourite settings in fantasy. I love a good axe, the cold and harsh environments, and Viking style society. The tale follows Ogulf Harlsbane, the son of a chief, as his people are forced to leave their land and seek refuge with neighbours due to an invading force sweeping through their lands.
As they begin their travels an incident happens, Ogulf ends up possessing an axe, which he must get to somebody he doesn’t know in order to prevent the invaders fulfilling a prophecy. It is at this juncture in the story where Melcun—Ogulf’s friend—powers manifest much stronger than they ever have done before—powers he dared not show while growing up as magic was not looked on favourably among his people.
This scene is also the first part of the book where the pace quickens, and we get some action, intensity, and panic. On the subject of pace, I’d have loved to have read more scenes like this in the book. Generally, the pace is quite static (but the story enjoyable) and I would have liked more action scenes throughout the book—the pace quickens near the end where the action scenes are well-written and paint a vivid picture of a bloody battle.
Cold from the North is very plot-driven and is constantly moving forward, which is why there isn’t as much action or change of pace as I would like. Book one is laying the foundation. We learn bits about the prophecy. We get some taste of magic—it’s powerful and we know very little so far so I am very interested to see how it builds in book 2. We learn about the history or the world and key characters. And we learn about some current events, such as a Civil War.
Whereas the plot-driven nature, following the path of the people seeking refuge doesn’t lend itself to much action (in this world), the tidbits we learn regrading the history of key characters were missed opportunities. I’m currently making my way through Stormlight, by Brandon Sanderson, and he does an excellent job of using scenes from the past to develop characters, build their history, and change the pace of the story.
We are told about past wars and events in the lives of key characters, and I think Cold from the North would have benefitted from either chapters which told these stories, or conversations among the characters which told these stories. By doing this Ross would be able to treat us to richer history lessons, more action, and have the opportunity to ebb and flow the pace of his storytelling.
There are a few grammatical errors in the book (I bought the Kindle version as well as having the book sent to me), but nothing major, though it is something to be aware of as it can break your flow when reading. And there was one inconsistency that through me where somebody had a greatsword, which was then a broadsword a couple of paragraphs later, and still a broadsword a little later. This may just be in the Kindle version. I have yet to check the hard copy… I didn’t want to break the beautiful spine!
Overall, Cold from the North is an enjoyable first installment in the Onyxborn series and a good debut novel. As with anything in life, writing is a journey and I’m sure Ross will learn lessons from feedback and reviews. This is a promising start to a writing career. There was plenty in Cold from the North that interested me, and I am looking forward to reading book two. I want to see where the story leads and how the magic plays out. I’m also looking forward to more action scenes which book two promises!