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Wednesday, January 06, 2021

A Historical Girl-Power Survival Novel Set in the Arctic? Yes, Please!

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Sir John Franklin and his crew of explorers disappear after an 1845 trip to the Arctic, everyone is eager to learn of the company's fate.  After several parties fail to find her missing husband, Lady Jane Franklin decides to take the matter into her own hands.  She pays for an all-female crew to make a secret trek into the wilderness.  If they succeed in finding Franklin, the team of women will become famous the world over.  Should they fail?  No one will ever know.  Or will they?

Virginia Reeve has helped lead hundreds of pioneers across the United States to California Territory.  She's proved herself against inclement weather, ferocious wildlife, and ill-prepared gold seekers, but she has never taken on a journey the likes of which Lady Jane is proposing.  Is she really up for leading a group of women she doesn't know into the frozen unknown?  A million things could go wrong—is she prepared to deal with the potential fallout?  

One year later, Virginia is standing trial for murder.  A young socialite is dead.  And she's not the only one who perished in the Arctic under Virginia's watch.  What really happened out there on the ice?

I love survival stories set in remote, dangerous places.  Mix in a murder mystery and you've got my attention, one hundred percent.  As soon as I read the synopsis for The Arctic Fury, the newest historical novel by Greer Macallister, then, I knew I had to read it.  A girl-power survival novel set in the Arctic?  Yes, please!  I was all-in for what I hoped would be an absorbing, immersive read.  Did The Arctic Fury meet my (admittedly high) expectations?  Yes and no.  The premise is definitely unique and interesting (the all-female expedition is entirely fictional, but what if it weren't?).  As far as plot goes, there's enough tension, suspense, and mystery to keep the tale moving at a satisfactory clip.  The tale definitely never got boring for me.  I had a hard time with the characters, though.  The cast is large and even though each of the women in the expedition narrates at least one chapter of the book, I still didn't feel like I really knew any of them.  Thus, it was difficult to care too much when characters died—none of them felt real enough to make me mournful.  Since I'm not sure exactly what purpose all the book's courtroom scenes served, I would have preferred that the whole novel—or at least a good 80% of it—took place in the Arctic.  That way, the story would have been more atmospheric, intense, and compelling.  Plus, it would have given Macallister more time to really develop all the female explorers, create a bond between them that the reader could feel, and offer more excitement and thrills to the plot.  I also would have liked to see the women have a more proactive role in their own rescue. 

Considering all these things, I ended up liking The Arctic Fury without loving it like I wanted to.  The book kept my attention, but it didn't yank me in and make me feel like I was trudging through the Arctic along with Virginia and her crew.  Ah, well.   

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Terror by Dan Simmons)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, innuendo, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Arctic Fury from the generous folks at Sourcebooks via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

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