The reader is instantly transported into another time in Ken Gregory’s The Polaris Whisper. With chilling landscapes and glorious traditions, Gregory proves he has a respect for the Norse culture of old. Though he starts of slow, Gregory hits his stride in an epic journey of trials.
It is a dark time. For decades Hakon the Black, the most feared Norse Lord of the ninth century, has conducted bloody and gruesome raids throughout Europe, and laid his claim upon the seas. But it is also a time of hope. In the frozen wastelands of the north, Vidar searches for the Vestibule of Light. Alone, freezing and exhausted, he pushes on through the endless winter in the belief that once his quest is complete, he may return to the life he has left behind, and to Niclaus, the son he was forced to abandon. For Niclaus has a greater destiny – one foretold by Cado, the enigmatic Small Walker – and Vidar is but one player in the boy’s life. Cado has enlisted the help of protectors from all corners of the Earth to shield Niclaus: men whose worlds are connected by only the loosest of threads. But as Niclaus becomes older, and the various worlds begin to converge, will Vidar and Cado have to make sacrifices beyond imagining to protect those they love.
Gregory captivated me in a way that seemed effortless. Incrementally, I was transported to a time of old and a place I had not been forever. However, Gregory did this so masterfully that at each blustering wind I instinctively felt a chill. The only downside was that half of the story, set thirty odd years prior, only served to consistently jolt me out of the main storyline. While I could envision where Gregory was going when he entwined the story of how things began, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed every time the new chapter was obviously one of the past. What didn’t help the matter was that the subplot is about a monastery – not the most intriguing place. Despite that slight annoyance, I was still able to jump back into the main plot.
Not for the first time, I found myself attracted to minor characters. This was in part because Gregory rarely expanded on them. The most obvious for me was Orrin, the brother of the main character Niclaus. Orrin is built up to be the perfect one. However, I consistently wondered how Orrin felt about a given situation that he and his brother were in and what his motivation was. It was otherwise hard to get too attached to any singular character as Gregory made a choice to skim through time. This was neither positive nor negative, but helped propel the story forward.
There are several moments where Gregory truly brings the culture to life. The most interesting example of this was the one which set the tone. Early on in the book, the group of friends go out onto a lake only to find themselves. In a somewhat predictable way, the protagonist Niclaus saves the day, rushing to the aid of a friend who fell through the ice. His brother Orrin chooses instead to protect the rest of the friends and lead them off the ice as soon as possible. I loved this interlude as it showed how two people make very different choices. This also highlighted the seemingly harsh rules of society at the time. As readers we find out that both boys have been brought up to never risk the many for the one. Since Niclaus disobeys he is ultimately punished and Gregory continues the punishment scene in an intriguing and beautifully realistic fashion.
Though The Polaris Whisperr may seem like the perfect book for a lover of Norse mythology, it is so much more. Gregory reminds us of a time which is almost forgotten and does so with a gracious respect which is hard to come by. The climax is worth waiting for and each scene puts you in the middle of the action, be it the action of writing a book or climbing up a mountain. The Polaris Whisper is truly an adventure book with the perfect blend of fantasy and history mixed in, making it an entertaining read.