Who wrote this book and when?
Garth Nix in 2000.

Has there been a film made of it?
Nope.

Who are the main characters?
Tal – one of the “Chosen” of the castle, a young boy who has some knowledge of the magics used to control light from sunstones
Milla – an Icecarl girl who aspires to become a Shield Maiden
Great Uncle Ebbitt – Tal’s great uncle, very eccentric but very skilled in light magics
Sushin – a Lightmaster for the color Orange, for some reason he has become Tal’s mortal enemy
Gref – Tal’s younger brother who is missing
Fashnek – a deformed Chosen who has filled in his missing parts with shadow, the master of the Hall of Nightmares

What’s it about?
At the close of the last book, Tal and Milla had been “rescued” by the Shield Maidens after narrowly defeating a Merwin. They are now being taken to the Ruin Ship, a relic from a time out of mind and the headquarters of the Shield Maidens. There, their wounds are treated and they speak to more Crones, which look disturbingly alike. Tal is given an ancient map leading up to the castle, but once he gets there, he finds that this journey is about to become a lot more complex than he once thought. It will lead him all over the Castle itself, to places he never knew existed, as well as to Aenir, the spirit world. He and Milla will find themselves not only struggling to stay alive but to save their way of life entirely.

Why is this book a classic?
It isn’t.

Why should I read this book?
Like I said before, read this YA series to get a small taste of Nix to see if you like his style (I’m fairly certain you will) before moving on to the “Abhorsen” series.

Has it won any awards?
I do not believe so.

Favorite quotes:
“Now Tal understood why Milla had clawed herself up the side of the sleigh. The Shield Maidens roamed the Ice and settled disputes among the different clans, hunted down outlaws, and killed dangerous creatures. As far as Tal could tell, the only people allowed to join were very scary women warriors with absolutely no sense of humor.” p 6

Anything else?
This book moves a bit more slowly than the first book, but provides a depth to the overall plot. We begin to see it’s not just a fluke that Sushin is against Tal and the scope of what this journey is all about begins to come more into focus.
Also, for all you Star Wars fans, this series is a product of Lucas Books.

Personal thoughts:
I went into this sequel with the characters and storyline a little stale in my memory, having shoved a 650 page work of “feminist” literature into my brain between the first and the second of the series. But Nix was quite gracious in recapping everything important from the first book in a short page. I was glad to find out a little more about Uncle Ebbitt, a character whom I enjoy. However, his character seemed a bit less put together than in the first book. I am pretty sure I’ll have to have a little more experience with him before I understand if this is something Nix has put in purposely or if it’s just a fluke. I was very impressed with the Hall of Nightmares scenes, but other scenes (mostly involving the royal guard) seemed a bit cartoonish. Overall, I think this was the second installment of “story set up” books in the series. Hopefully, the third will move on a little more.

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