ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Ice by Ryan Cahill
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Bound and the Broken (Book #3.5 of 5)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 200 pages (Kindle edition)
Publish date: 23rd of September 2023 by Ryan Cahill (Self-published)
The Ice has the element to freeze and kill. That is not the trajectory of Cahill’s rapid-fire career. With another incredible novella under his belt, Cahill’s rise to fame in the fantasy landscape is unstoppable.
“All hope ever does is convince us to do things we know we shouldn’t. It isn’t worth dying for.”
“It’s one of the few things that is worth dying for, Ihvon.”
Aeson… Depending on your perspective as a reader, I will argue that Aeson can be classified as the main character of The Bound and the Broken series. Aeson’s role in the ongoing conflicts of the series is impossible to ignore or replace. Without Aeson, no rebellion or chance of triumph would even exist. Do I like the guy? Not really. He is a complex and pragmatic individual. His focus on his main mission to protect Epheria is extreme, and he is willing to sacrifice and make the hard decision to achieve victory. This is where this companion novella about Aeson and his time at Valacia in order to spark new hope comes in. Yes, for the uninitiated, The Ice is the third companion novella in The Bound and the Broken series. Ryan Cahill refuses to let the year end without releasing at least two titles. Every year. And I say it is about time we get a more detailed glimpse into Aeson’s soul, emotion, and perseverance. More importantly, I am glad of Cahill’s fierce endeavor to provide his readers with great escapism. As always, despite this being chronologically a prequel to Of Blood and Fire, Cahill himself said at the beginning of the book that you have to catch up to all the books in The Bound and the Broken series first before reading The Ice to reap the maximum effect.
“Pain doesn’t make you weak, Ihvon. It makes you human. Sometimes the only thing that reminds me I’m still human is how much everything hurts.”
Almost four hundred years have passed since the fall of The Order. Four hundred years since the empire rose and the last dragon egg hatched. The story in The Ice begins a year before the events in Of Blood and Fire, and it reaches its way to the same year. In the icy wasteland of Valacia, Aeson Virandr searches for the one thing that could turn the tide of war: hope. But there is a reason no soul has ever returned from Valacia. Hope comes at a cost that can only be paid in blood. Because in Epheria, Aeson and his team might be predators, but in Valacia, they are prey. We have seen Valerys in The Bound and the Broken. We have read that Aeson and his assembled team went to Valacia to get Valerys. But we had not witnessed the details yet. Until now… I am once again amazed by how much content, characterizations, and actions Cahill managed to pack into his long novella or short novel. Hope, bravery, sacrifice, and what it means to be human are some of the main themes in The Ice. And I believe all of these were poured into the narrative efficiently.
“We came to these icelands in search of hope, in search of a spark that could bring our people together. We are so close. We honour those we have lost by carrying on, by persevering. Some of us fight for our homes… Others, our families… There are those who fight for legacy and glory, to be remembered. And there are those who fight because it is all we have left.”
As you can probably expect from Cahill’s storytelling, there will be a lot of actions and battle scenes. Do not think you are not getting those because this is a novella. I was initially scared the effect of Cahill’s well-written action scenes would not grip me as hard because I knew the outcome of this journey already, and to be honest, for a while, it did feel that way. But then, Cahill proved his skill by including how horrific—and beautiful—Valacia is. The battles in the second half were compelling, and the final two chapters somehow became one of Cahill’s best action sequences for me. Plus, although it was done in one paragraph, it is in The Ice Cahill started showing his ambitious plan for the future series taking place in the world of The Bound and the Broken. It reminded me of how I felt when I read Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson for the first time, and why I continue to say these novellas aren’t to be missed if you are reading The Bound and the Broken. They are essential materials.
“My people and the Dakar have an understanding. I have known Yu’tukan for many years. When humans fled Terroncia, they made land in many places. Epheria, Karvos, Narvona, Ardan, Tathos– Valacia. Though that tale on its own would take a long time to tell, far more time than you have.”
I should note one important thing. These companion novellas worked because of the main series. Other than The Fall, which you can read first without reading Of Blood and Fire, attachment and familiarity with the world of The Bound and the Broken are necessary. Without reading the main books and the other companion novellas first, I doubt I would enjoy The Ice this much. It is true this is a prequel story, and unlike the main books, we are reading solely from the perspective of Aeson. Readers will be able to understand the reasons behind his actions and the depth of his affection for his sons and loved ones. However, Aeson is NOT the only important character in The Ice. Erik, Dahlen, and even the very brief appearances of Dayne and Belina in the beginning were enough to make me feel elated. The action scenes in the final two chapters also would not have a palpable sense of threat without knowing who Aeson and his team are dealing with. Knowing Cahill, I am confident the new characters and creatures encountered in The Ice will play a more prominent spotlight in the upcoming books of The Bound and the Broken.
“I may no longer be a Draleid. I may be broken. My soul may be half, but we are bonded still. I thank you for this gift of hope, this gift of life. And it is my solemn vow that I shall watch over this egg, that I shall be its guardian until my dying breath. And should it hatch in my lifetime, should a bond be formed, I will protect the hatchling and the Draleid with my life. They will be as blood to me. I swear this to you, ancient one, on the bond. Myia nithír til diar. Draleid n’aldryr, Rakina nai dauva. Du haryn myia vandair.”
To know Cahill’s grand vision and plan for his series is so exciting. It is good to have confirmation we will have more out of this world when The Bound and the Broken, one of my favorite ongoing series, is done. The Fall, The Exile, and The Ice have verified Ryan Cahill as the only author besides Brandon Sanderson and Fonda Lee I can trust to write meaty, paramount, and incredible novellas. He is that good. And with the constantly rising quality and output he is producing, I believe Ryan Cahill is one of the finest self-published fantasy authors in the genre. I look forward to reading the fourth and penultimate volume in The Bound and the Broken series next year: Of Empires and Dust.
“Even amongst millions, one still matters. No death is made insignificant by more death.
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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