Girl in Ice by Erica Ferencik: A review
First of all, the protagonist was someone that I could identify and sympathize with and that was a good start. Her name is Val Chesterfield and she is a linguist in an extremely esoteric discipline, dead Nordic languages. She has had a successful career, but she suffers from anxiety and possibly agoraphobia. Moreover, she had a twin brother named Andy, who was an accomplished climate scientist. Andy had been stationed with a research team on a remote island off Greenland's barren coast. But now Andy is gone, having committed suicide by venturing unprotected into 50 degrees below zero weather. Or, was it suicide? Val is inconsolable and she has her doubts.
Then Wyatt, the leader of the research team that Andy was a part of, contacts Val and asks for her help as a linguist. His team has uncovered what seems to be a scientific impossibility. They have found a young girl who was encased in ice for hundreds of years and when the ice thawed, they discovered that the girl is alive!
She's alive but they are unable to communicate with her because she speaks an unknown language. It is the very definition of a dead Nordic language and that is right up Val's professional alley. Wyatt asks Val to come and try to comprehend and communicate with the child. Val sees the request as a justifiable subterfuge that will allow her at the same time to investigate what happened to her brother. It takes every bit of courage that she can muster but she accepts the assignment.
Arriving on-site, Val is at first overwhelmed by fear. The landscape is even more harrowing than her worst nightmares and she does not know what to make of the enigmatic Wyatt. But then she meets the girl and she remembers why she is there. Her emotional connection with the child is almost instantaneous, even though she cannot immediately understand her language.
As Val begins to be able to communicate with the girl, she is alarmed to see that she is not well. In fact, she appears to be dying and she seems to be desperately trying to let Val know of something that she needs, possibly something that will help her condition. She draws pictures to try to make herself understood, but will Val be able to figure it all out in time to help her?
I had not read anything by Erica Ferencik previously so I can't say if this is typical of her but she excels in this book at describing the frigid Nordic landscape that is the setting of her story. She really makes the reader feel as though she were there, to the point that I sometimes felt the need to put on a sweater while reading. This is especially important since the forbidding landscape and climate are such integral parts of the story. Ferencik is also really excellent at making one feel the claustrophobia of the research station through her vivid descriptions of the close quarters and the human odors of the place that have no way of dissipating. Overall, I was really impressed with her descriptive powers and her ability to create an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty as Val struggles to help the child while also trying to understand the part that Wyatt may or may not have played in her brother's death.
The only negative thing I have to say about the book is that the ending was a bit rushed and it didn't necessarily seem to follow from the facts we had gathered, but overall, this was a read that definitely lived up to its billing as a thriller.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars