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Blood and Ice
Robert Masello
Bantam Spectra, 512 pages

Blood and Ice
Robert Masello
Robert Masello is an award-winning journalist, a television writer, and the author of many other books, most recently the supernatural thrillers Vigil (which appeared on the USA Today bestseller list) and Bestiary. His articles and essays have appeared often in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, People, and Parade, and his nonfiction book, Robert's Rules of Writing, has become a staple in many college classrooms. His produced television credits include such popular shows as Charmed, Sliders, and Early Edition. A longstanding member of the Writers Guild of America, he lives in Santa Monica, California.

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A review by Tammy Moore

Blood and Ice is in many ways a story about stasis, about being frozen in place and in time.

Michael Wilde is a man caught in the moment between hope and grief. His lover, Kristin, has been in a coma since an accident when they were climbing. Kristin too is trapped, in a body that doesn't work and a mind that won't wake, by her parent's desperate, delusional hope she'll someday, somehow recover. Neither of them able to go back to how it was before or move forwards to how it was going to be.

In 1854, two other lovers are similarly trapped. Sinclair Archibald Copley is a wild young soldier wiling away the time before he is sent to war. At the Establishment for Gentlewoman during Illness, Eleanor Ames is a dedicated young nurse training under Florence Nightengale herself. Chance and whim bring them together but Eleanor is too proper for a dalliance and too low-born for a marriage. They can't be together, but neither can they give each other up.

Two sets of lovers, separated by centuries and continents, whose paths are nevertheless destined to cross in frozen Antarctica. Michael was sent there by his editor in search of a story. Sinclair and Eleanor were thrown overboard in chains by terrified sailors to drown.

Broken, dying Kristin never leaves her hospital bed but she is still there in Michael's memory. The lover he couldn't save, who'd never rouse from her slumber.

Blood and Ice is a good book. It is well-written, painstakingly researched and has a solid, twisting plot that knows when to dally and when to up the place. The secondary characters were vivid and fun to read about. They were also complete in themselves, convincing people with their own lives and distractions that didn't always have anything to do with the plot or the main characters concerns.

Charlotte, the practical and pragmatic doctor with her braids and her claustrophobia. Hyperactive Darryl Hirsch with his passion for all things fishy and caffinated who was also biliously, pallidly seasick. The 1800s characters were just as well-crafted, from the wholly believable Florence Nightengale who balanced compassion with ferocious and necessary rectitude to the hard-bitten India man Sergeant Hatch who prepared Sinclair for the brutal realities of war.

Actually, if I had to pinpoint one literary talent that Robert Masello had that stood out from the rest it would be that his writing is convincing. I never once stopped reading his novel to go to Google and check if something he said was right. (And whether the writer is right isn't the problem there, it's that the reader doesn't trust them and that they've been thrown out of the story.) The novel convinced me of its reliability and it did it without resorting to exposition. Every jot of information about life in the Antarctic was woven seamlessly into the story, explanations made believable by the fact Michael was both a neophyte and a journalist and could be expected to ask questions and need advice.

My only problem with the novel is that I think it tried to be too many things to too many people. Michael's story is familiar to anyone who has seen a horror movie set in a desolate, inaccessible location. The fragile amity of the people there, the contagion (whether moral, supernatural or viral) freed by accident and the destruction it causes. His story fits neatly into the horror genre and sits, oddly, with the almost urban fantasy elements woven through the 1800s story. They just never quite meshed for me, and where the 1800s impinged on Michael's story it slowed the pace down a little.

It also hobbled Michael's personal character arc, since in many ways he was the same at the end of the book as he was at the start. In stasis. Masello's writing is good enough that I suspect that was deliberate choice on his part, but it did leave me hanging…so to speak.

Blood and Ice is a very well-written novel. I enjoyed reading it a great deal and the detail in both present-day Antarctica and the 1800s was impressive and well-presented. A very good read by a talented author.

Copyright © 2009 Tammy Moore

Tammy Moore is a speculative fiction writer based in Belfast. She writes reviews for Verbal Magazine, Crime Scene NI and Green Man Review. Her first book The Even -- written by Tammy Moore and illustrated by Stephanie Law -- is to be published by Morrigan Books September 2008.

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