the Little Red Reviewer

From Mountains of Ice, by Lorina Stephens

Posted on: January 3, 2011

A jealous ruler, a banished advisor, a misunderstood gift and a country being destroyed from within. Lorina Stephen’s From Mountains of Ice is a lovingly told story of rebellion and sacrifice, of love and fear.

In the 10 years since Sylvio’s banishment from the court of the young Prince Carmelo, he has made a life for himself and his wife Aletta in a rural village. Able to relax away from the problems of state, Sylvio would like nothing more than to retire to a quiet life of making bows by hand. A gifted bone speaker, he creates bows of the bones of the recently deceased. These bows speak to their users, and supernaturally protect their homelands. Sylvio doesn’t brag about his gift, but he doesn’t hide it either. Aletta on the other hand, is a gifted Strega, or truthsayer, a skill that is welcome anywhere she goes.

When Prince Carmelo demands Sylvio return to court, he and Aletta have every reason to be nervous. They travel with the village’s caravan to the capital city, only to be faced with ruinous taxes, foreign mercenaries, rumors of Carmelo’s waning sanity, and trade ambassadors with ambiguous alliances. With little warning, Sylvio and Aletta must decide who they can trust, and they must decide fast. Sylvio must choose: betray the prince he loves, or leave his countrymen behind to fend for themselves.

When Sylvio is captured and horrifically disfigured by Carmelo’s mercenaries, his choice becomes clear. But is he strong enough to go through with it? Carmelo has forced Sylvio’s hand, and Sylvio speaks with the voices of the dead.

There is so much more I want to tell you, characters, betrayals, yearnings, latent gifts and madnesses . . . but trust me when I say you’ll enjoy it more if you discover it for yourself.

Along with natural sounding and witty dialogue, Stephens presents a renaissance Italianesque world populated by a unique ancestor worshipping population. You can’t help but love Sylvio and Aletta, this is a mature and intelligent couple who has been together for decades. They trust each other implicity, and know when they can be selfish and when they can’t. These are the people I want to grow up to be, and other than Prince Carmelo, this is a world I want to live in.

I have a few words of advice regarding the reading of From Mountains of Ice – pay attention to everything, and read slowly. Once the action gets going, and it gets going pretty quickly, this is a nonstop ride filled with surprises at every turn. At times I complain that books are too long, that the author took too many pages to get the plot going, From Mountains of Ice was the opposite. Not a slow moment, not a wasted scene, I didn’t want it to end.

If you are a fan of historical fiction or historical fantasy, From Mountains of Ice is an enjoyable and satisfying read, filled with political intrigue, passionate characters living in a beautiful and alluring world.

My first review of 2011 is from 5Rivers, an indie publisher in Canada. These are some cool folks: operating out of a historical home, they embrace traditional handcrafts and high tech publishing options. Check our their website, and their blog, which has among other things some great articles on the new universe of publishing and e-books, from the publishers point of view.

6 Responses to "From Mountains of Ice, by Lorina Stephens"

This sounds really interesting, but making bows out of bones? How does Sylvio make them flexible?

Sorry, but that was the thing which really caught my eye!


that was what caught my eye as well, and it’s an integral part of the story. Sylvio slices the bones into laminateable strips, and laminates them around and with the wood that the bow is made of. it’s explained much better than that in the book, of course, and when it’s explained, it does make sense.


Ah, I see. Still a bit weird, though!


Making bows from bone is common among Mongolian bowyers and well documented. Mind you, they use animal bones, not human. The bone is sliced into very fine strips and laminated in layers with wood and sinew. There’s a bibliography in the back of the novel that explains much of the research that went into the background details of the novel.


Hi Lorina! thanks for commenting, especially since I wasn’t sure if I got the bow making specifics correct.

I’ve read a bit of British style historical fiction/historical fantasy, where they are making bows out of wood, and go into detail about the types of wood used, so it’s doubly fascinating to learn about how they are made elsewhere in the world, where wood maybe isn’t as prominent a resource.


I may be leading you astray here, in that I didn’t mean to indicate that bone is used because of a lack of wood. Rather, the bone is laminated to wood. Wood still forms the base of the construction, but in the layers of lamination you will find bone and sinew. Quite fascinating, actually.

And indeed yes the famous British longbow was made primarly from yew, and primarily from Spanish yew, it being the best because of the dense growth rings.

In my novel, I thought it would be fascinating to marry the longbow to the Mongolian style of laminations, and instead of using animal bone, use human bone. And to make that rare to have those bows (the arcossi) crafted only by a bonespeaker, someone capable of releasing the voice and potential of the bone laminations.

Anyway, if you’re interested, look up some of the books I listed in the afterword. I think you’ll find them a fascinating read.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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