Tim Clare’s new novel, The Ice House, is to be published very soon in May 2019 by Edinburgh-based publisher Canongate. The Ice House is the sequel to Clare’s debut novel The Honours and the book once again focuses on Delphine Venner but instead of seeing her in her youth and prime Clare’s sequel presents the reader with a much older version of Delphine who despite her age is still vehement and energetic in search of revenge and salvation for her loved ones.
The narrative follows and switches between two perspectives: Delphine’s and Hagar’s. Years after the events from The Honours Delphine’s life has been scarred and altered from the loss of her family and friends to the world of monsters and brutality. The reader finds out that she has spent her entire adult life hunting for clues regarding the existence of this ‘other’ world trying with all her might to find a gateway to it and endeavour saving everything she has lost. Delphine’s narrative revolves around this quest of saving her loved ones. The other viewpoint that complements Delphine’s is Hagar’s. Hagar is a centuries-old assassin from the ‘other’ world who is on a quest of her own. Her aim is to break loose from the relationship that gives her eternal youth but at a terrible price for her. Needless to say that Hagar’s and Delphine’s fates are intertwined in a complex relationship in which both parties strive to regain what they have lost: family and freedom.
The narrative structure does not sound so complicated, shifting between two narratives and flashes of hindsight, but it is a deceptive simplicity. Tim Clare has constructed a very complex novel and at times it borders on confusing. At different points of the stories new characters are introduced and their motifs and agendas are very obscure making it difficult for the reader to not only connect with them but also even understand their actions and the roles they play within the bigger picture. This is sometimes also true for the main protagonists. Their motifs are clearly expressed but sometimes the actions they take are completely baffling and unconnected. The ‘other’ world, within which the majority of action takes place, is a fascinating place. The different races and the complexity of their relationships show a real fantastical mastery but even with this imagining the world is a difficult job. More details and explanations are needed at times as the reader, unlike the author, is a first-time explorer of this place so in this aspect the novel, as a fantasy one, lacks a bit of conviction. The narrative plots could have been a bit clearer and easier to follow and The Ice House could have benefited from a clearer structure and more insight into the characters and their actions, not just the two main ones Delphine and Hagar.
With all of this said the one thing that really stands is Tim Clare himself. The Ice House may lack a bit in terms of plot and characters but there is no doubt that Tim Clare can write. It is rare to read a very literary fantasy book but Tim Clare’s The Ice House is one of these fantastical works that are a celebration of language and beauty. Every sentence is a joy to read and Tim Clare has a really high standard of writing. Each passage, each sentence is so carefully constructed and the reader can really feel the care and love that Tim Clare has put into The Ice House. On this note, The Ice House together with The Honours should be on the TBR list of any reader who enjoys a great literary writing as both books are great examples of literary works that are not turgid or stuffy but simply beautiful, which showcases the huge talent of Tim Clare. Undoubtedly, we will be hearing the name Tim Clare more and more often as the future brings us more of his writing.
The Ice House is available from 1st May 2019, published by Canongate.