Title: The Ice Whisperers
Author: Helenka Stachera
Genre: Fantasy/Time slip
Published: 2nd November 2021
Synopsis: A haunting magical adventure about two sisters born 40,000 years apart, perfect for fans of Frostheart and The Wild Way Home.
When Bela’s mother dies, she is summoned to deepest Siberia to stay with an uncle she’s never met. Exploring his strange scientific workshop, she uncovers a secret she was never meant to find – a doorway that opens an to icy land, frozen in time and full of legends come to life.
But this frozen land is in danger, and it’s up to Bela to find a way to save it. To succeed, she must join forces with the impossible: a long-lost sister she never knew she had, born 40,000 years before . . .
In Poland in 1910, Bela is whisked away to Siberia following the death of her mother, to the house of the uncle who sent her away when she was a baby. He’s a scientist, and one day whilst exploring his secret workshop, Bela discovers a secret about her mother – one that will hurtle her 40,000 years into the past, to a sister she never knew about, and a frozen land under threat from the white-eyes – and Bela is part white-eye and part of the tribe under threat. When she meets her sister, Ren-ya, they must work together to save Ren-ya’s people, the Last, and find out what really happened to Bela’s father. Two very different worlds collide in this story – one where men and women are equal in many ways – Ren-ya’s world, and Bela’s world where women are not seen as powerful or influential, where the idea of women having goals beyond being a mother and running a home are presented as laughable – yet through characters like Bela and Eva, these assumptions are cleverly inverted.
Helenka has created a world of science, fantasy, and sisterly love, with a nod to Frozen about the role of sisters, isolation, and the power of ice and snow in this new novel, where we explore what it is like to be trapped in a time bubble for Ren-ya, waiting to be released from her wanderings to become part of the tribe, and an adult, whilst the isolation that Bela has felt her entire life – both have weaknesses and strengths derived from these different experiences, showing that working together can become the solution we need, and can help us work out how to make things work for everyone.
The fantasy elements in this story – the time travel, Nagar emerging 40,000 years into the future, and two sisters, the same age yet 40,000 apart, create an atmospheric story that shows how we can overcome fear and uncertainty when we are tested by something beyond our control, and when we find a common enemy – such as Viktor Novak, and the role that betrayal can also play in determining how we respond to situations we find ourselves in.
Bela and Ren-ya’s sibling rivalry and journey to accepting each other was well-written and pulled me into the story, ensuring that each girl was given their own voice, which in turn gave girls from two different times and places a voice, and a means of telling their story, empowering reader to find their own voice and talents. The role that acceptance played in the novel are important, and show that even those we think might be enemies can turn out to be allies – that we cannot judge someone by looks alone.
I loved that sisterly love was at the heart of this book, and I love that kids are getting so many stories these days filled with this kind of love – I think all age groups need stories about love between friends and family that isn’t romantic – and that shows these bonds are stronger and more important. Whilst unsettling at times, there was a sense of certainty, and a sense that everything would be okay in the end. Books like this are comforting and exhilarating and make for an exciting reading journey. It was a wonderful book to read.