Book Review: The Cradle of Ice by James Rollins
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
The Cradle of Ice by James Rollins
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of Moon Fall
Publisher: Tor Books (February 7, 2023)
Length: 672 pages
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Clocking in at almost 700 pages, The Cradle of Ice by James Rollins is the second book of the Moon Fall saga, and considerably longer than its predecessor but ironically feels a lot lighter on substance. However, if you were intrigued by the premise established in The Starless Crown, I would encourage you to continue with this series as long as you are prepared to put up with some pacing issues and the occasional aimless ramble.
The story picks up where things left off in the last book, following former Cloistery student and inconstant seer Nyx as she travels across Urth to find new allies in her quest to avert moonfall, the disaster she foresaw that would bring about the apocalypse. Their planet has stopped spinning, which would bring eternal winter upon most of the population, but that’s small potatoes compared to what would happen next—the moon crashing onto the surface of the planet, essentially destroying everything on it.
Now Nyx sails board the ship Sparrowhawk on her own, on a separate journey from her companions. She must venture into an icy region of the world known only from stories to find a solution to fix Urth’s axis, but will encounter many challenges and dangers along the way, including an act of deliberate sabotage to her vessel. Meanwhile, we also have Prince Kanthe, second born son of King Toranth, who has his own hands full trying to avert all-out war. His party has traveled to another kingdom to engage in politicking and fact-finding, but all the while they may be attracting unwanted attention from some malicious factions.
With the fellowship forged from the previous book mostly split up, there’s quite a few storylines to follow in The Cradle of Ice. Rollins doesn’t waste time getting right back into the thick of things either, so there’s not much breathing room for catching up before he’s throwing even more characters, settings, and ideas into the mix. Having been quite fond of the relationship dynamics formed in The Starless Crown, I’ll admit to not being a huge fan of our group going their separate ways in this one, but thankfully plenty of time is also given to developing those characters we already know, especially Nyx and Kanthe, whose backstories are explored and given more in-depth treatment.
Once more we fall into the familiar rhythm of a quest narrative complete with the old-school fantasy vibes, despite Rollins pumping this sequel up with bigger action, bigger adventure, bigger magic—bigger practically everything. But bigger isn’t always better, and as I alluded to before, there were times where I felt like he was losing control of the multiple threads and struggling to keep up the momentum in each. These efforts weren’t always successful, as evidenced by the sections which dragged or where the pacing frequently stalled, and for one felt far less urgency surrounding the apocalypse this time around.
At the same time, old habits from Rollins’ thriller writing clearly die hard as some of the quirks I noticed from The Starless Crown are carried into The Cradle of Ice—the immediacy of his “telling versus showing” prose, for example, or his penchant for simplistic solutions to complex problems, almost like he’s waving a magic wand to change the rules on the spot to suit his needs. The story is a bit formulaic, and the author’s style is definitely not subtle, which might not work so well for the delicate nature of the political intrigue, which is so heavily featured in this novel, but on the bright side it does make for some sensational battle sequences.
Bottom line, I have no problem with tropes, and sometimes they can even be a comfort to fall back on when you just want to kick back with an entertaining fantasy adventure. This feels like what James Rollins is going for with Moon Fall, though hopefully he can continue to deliver future novels in this series without getting sucked into the pitfalls of the epic fantasy genre like overwriting and bloated plotlines just for the sake of an epic fantasy page count. Overall, if you enjoyed The Starless Crown you’ll want to also pick up The Cradle of Ice. Despite some hiccups along the way, I felt this sequel was worth the read and was happy to be able to continue the story.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Starless Crown (Book 1)
Nice review. I enjoyed the first book and am looking forward to this next one.
I hope you’ll enjoy it. It’s a bit longwinded, but does build on some things nicely!
700 pages is too long to depend on tropes…
I think he’s a bit out of practice, been writing thrillers too long!
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Hmm maybe, must check if i put book 1 on my wishlist
Let me know if it’s there!
Well, I’d hoped for a better reaction, but at least you didn’t hate it. I’m not a big fan of it being almost 700 pages. Sometimes it seems authors strive for longer books just to fit the genre or as bragging rights and not because the story calls for it. Hopefully he can be a little more concise in the next book. I do enjoy old-school fantasy and mostly don’t mind tropes typical of that. It is interesting, though, seeing how an author known for other genres tackles writing in this one. I wonder how much he’s read in this genre, whether he has the background and just hasn’t written in it often, or whether it really is new to him. It being new could be a good thing in that he might approach it with a fresh perspective, or it could be bad in that he, perhaps unknowingly, overuses some tropes. One of these days I do hope to continue this series as I did really enjoy the first book.
Actually, it surprised me to know Rollins actually started in fantasy! So this is like going back to his roots, I guess you can say. It might also explain why his stuff might feel more old school, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as you’ve pointed out. Like I wrote to bookstooge, he might just be out of practice. He’s been in mysteries and thrillers for so long, a genre that admittedly relies more heavily on tropes.