When journalist Michael Wilde is commissioned to write a feature about a remote research station deep in the frozen beauty of Antarctica he is prepared for some extraordinary sights. But on a diving expedition in the polar sea he comes across something so extraordinary to be almost unbelievable – a man and woman chained together, deep in the ice. The doomed lovers are brought to the surface but as the ice begins to thaw the scientists discover the unusual contents of the bottles buried behind the pair, and realise they are all in terrible danger…
I picked this up on one of my semi-regular charity shop runs, intrigued by the cover and by the book description. I’ve developed a bit of a liking for supernatural stories set in polar regions – witness my love of Dark Matter.
But would this one do anything for me?
I was suspicious, sadly, right from the prologue, which was completely overwritten and melodramatic. Still, I held out hope, and after that it seemed like things were improving. Until I was half way through, bored and wondering why – and then I realised! Nothing was happening.
Seriously. I was two thirds of the way through before any of the plot lines started to intersect or pay off. And when they did pay off, it was deeply disappointing – the climax was too easy, everything happened. Despite the deaths and the trauma, there was no real sense of danger, or creepyness. The tragic love story wasn’t tragic, or a love story.
It’s a shame, a real shame, because there was so much here that could have been great. But Masello tries to do too much with too little, and as a result the story drags and the characters feel like cardboard cutouts. I felt nothing, and I’m a woman who cries at books, who gets deeply entrenched in the world of a story, who treats characters like real people. But in the world of Blood and Ice, nobody is a real person. Events don’t happen naturally because of their character traits, things happen because they are made to happen, no matter how out of character it is. Foreshadowing is obvious, the sense of danger is not there, there is no real oomph.
It’s a big, thick chunk of a book, and could easily have had at least a quarter edited out without doing any harm to the story. In fact, I think it would have done it good. It might have been better with more focus on the victorian lovers and their history, properly building up how unnatural they were. It certainly would have been better if the fear had been slower building, the awful events had seemed to actually matter, and if all the ‘horror’ hadn’t happened in the last third of the book.
This gets a lower mark than it probably deserves, just because I’m so disappointed. 2 stars.