The blurb on the back of the book says : "No one believes in fairies any more". Being a mum to two little girls, the word fairies immediately brings to mind images of happy, kind-hearted little girls in pink tutus and stripey tights who live in a magical world where they spend all day baking cookies and helping their friends.
It came as a bit of a surprise therefore to discover that the "fairy" in this book likes baring her teeth at people, ripping apart animals to devour their flesh and drink their blood and is out to murder her rivals. Nothing like the fairies in Sophie's and Juliette's books then ! But she's not really a fairy. She may be the Ice Maiden the old legend tells of but nobody really knows, the only thing of importance being that she is an Outsider. As is Franz, the German boy recently arrived in England and mistrustful of his Nazi parents whom he nicknames The Wolf and The Squirrel.
For this is 1939 and Franz, although still a child, has seen things in his homeland that will haunt his dreams forever. Gypsies, Jews and disabled people being humiliated and mysteriously disposed of, just because they are different. I love the childish viewpoint that transforms the swastikas into four-legged square spiders that scuttle through Franz's nightmares.
The book reads almost like a parable. The characters are one-dimensional and almost symbolic so it is hard to really feel anything for any of them because they have no emotional depth. The ending didn't seem conclusive either, as we don't really know what will happen to Franz, his parents or Edrin. In writing this review, I have just discovered that Ice Maiden is the prequel to Cold Tom, so this second tome may clear up some of my unanswered questions.
It's an interesting tale that would be a good way of introducing the concepts of tolerance and persecution as well as right and wrong. It would also be a starting point for understanding the history of Nazi Germany so it would be a good book for youngish children to read. You should be aware that some of the language is slightly crude though (I remember there being several turds as well as a piss and a fart - nothing outrageously rude but maybe not the sort of thing you'd want your child to repeat to their teacher !).
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £5.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: OUP Oxford (Feb 2011)
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