This beautiful hardback , The Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi took me by surprise. On first glance it is a handsome book with a black cover, Nordic looking cover art and the slightly chilling sentence above the title ‘They thought they were alone…’ The cover promises the story of an ambitious camping trip in Iceland’s volcanic hinterlands with a hint of menace.
The tale is delivered by the author in a strange, poetic, ethereal way. The author is highly skilled at creating an atmosphere of disorientation, mystery and intrigue which kept me reading. The mystery is the driving force in the book much more so than the main characters who were difficult to empathise with. The back story of each character is told in a similar style to an Icelandic saga – straightforward and unbiased. The tension mounts particularly after the half way point in the book when the reader realises that everything is not as it seems. The Icelandic lava fields have all kinds of terrible folklore (think elves, trolls, foxes and even Satan) surrounding them and this may have influenced Braggi.
This was not an easy read but the strangeness of it all kept me going. I am still not sure I understand what happened but I am glad I kept reading and the tale left me with an uneasy feeling. If you can imagine something created with the surrealism of Dali, the horror of Lovecraft with a touch Icelandic magic all wrapped up in a story then you are on your way to the experience this book may provide you with.