“In the freezing Norwegian winter of 1581 the plague robs seventeen year-old Silje Arngrimsdotter of all her family. Homeless, starving and shepherding two newly-orphaned infants, she heads in desperation for the warmth of the funeral pyres blazing beyond the city gates of corpse littered Trondheim. In the shadowy forest she meets a captivating stranger – Tengel of the infamous Ice People. She has heard of his dark reputation but nevertheless feels an irresistible physical attraction…”
Written in the early 1980s by a Norwegian author, Margin Sandemo, Spellbound begins a gigantic 47-volume series about one of the most famous, fictional families in the Northern Europe. The Ice People. The saga spans over a 400 years of adventures, plagues, love, death, personal dramas and international conflicts. It takes place around the Baltic Sea, in what now comprises eight Baltic states: Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Poland. The narrative incorporates historical figures as well as mythical creatures. On one side we have Swedish kings and Norwegian freedom-fighters, on the other we are swamped with demons, fallen angels, warlocks and witches. There is magic, curses, spawns of hell, there is love and devotion, courage and hope. It is Sandemo’s Magnum Opus embracing her love for storytelling with a passion for history and Scandinavian folklore.
I have started reading it when I was in my young teens, a very educating read for one such young. I found the sexual innuendos and the storyline fascinating, and I think that to this day I have not read a better ‘soap opera’. Translated into a number of languages, it was not until 2008 when the saga has been finally published in English. I have decided to re-read it with a different pair of eyes, and confront my younger self. As much as the storytelling is still impressive, you might find the language a bit lacking and certain descriptions – too clumsy. I will say it now – if you have been reading Romance in any shape and form, this series will take you by surprise, but I think that it is definitely worth a try.
In my musings on the very specific language of the series (mind you – it is a translation) I started to wonder whether it was Author’s lack of imagination which made the language sound obsolete and crude, or did she in fact tried to reconstruct the language of the 16th century Norway? When we look closer you can actually see quite clearly the differences between people from different social classes and varying age. For example, Silje being a blacksmith’s daughter uses a rather simplistic language and has a very narrow view of the world. On the other hand, Charlotte Maiden, a baron’s daughter uses a much more sophisticated language. I found it difficult at first to adjust and that led me to wonder whether it is perhaps it is then the current style of writing historical novels which has nothing to do with how people talked in the past centuries? A similar attention to language I have recently found in the Steampunk novellas by Heather Massey, in particular The Blacksmith’s Lover (soon to appear on our blog). Here the Author purposely turns a simple blacksmith and a scullery maid into romantic heroes of her book with dialogues and language adequate to their social status.
Regardless of what one might think about the language itself, the sexual tension is well-executed and it is palpable throughout the book. If you decide to dive into this rich world of The Legend of the Ice People, you will find that each volume has a different level of sexual explicitness dependant on the characters involved. You will find books which are prudent and meek, others which are overfilled with animalistic passions and eroticism, ones you absolutely abhor and ones which you will re-read numerous times. It is a diverse and rich world and it is a shame that all the plans to turn it into a TV series were, so far, unsuccessful.