The Long Winter of the Old World. It is the pre-dawn chill that awakens him to his daily chores. He leads the great bull out of its stall, out through the town gate and out to graze before it can awaken everyone and earn Alv a beating. As the herd roams he breakfasts alone, always an outsider, watching the sky and the sea. Is that ships he sees?
It is. The watchman rings out the warning. The men of the town arm themselves and head to the town wall to face the raiders. Realising his danger Alv runs back towards the gate, but he is too late. The town has been sealed, leaving Alv on the other side. The Ekwesh raiders are practiced at what they do, taking their victims one by one. Yet when Alv’s turn comes, the stranger who claims him is not Ekwesh, and has more in mind for Alv than death.
Anvil of Ice is the first in The Winter of the World trilogy and has been re-released as part of Gollancz’s Fantasy Masterworks collection. This is a classic apprenticeship tale, with young Alv first finding his mentor, then mastering his abilities as a smith and outgrowing his peers, having his first great adventure and then facing his foe ready for his story to continue in book two.
Old fans of the series will be glad for a re-read, and this newly packaged version includes some appendices detailing more about the world and its various inhabitants to fill in levels of detail that aren’t covered fully within the narrative. For newcomers used to contemporary writing it may be a struggle and is certainly a book that will split opinions. It is definitely traditional fantasy – heavily over-descriptive in places with an affectedly archaic feel to the dialogue and emotional content, all of which has an impact on the pace.