Blood and Ice
by Robert Masello
Cover Artist: Stephen Youll
Review by Gayle Surrette
Spectra Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553807288
Date: 24 February 2009 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Photojournalist Michael Wilde has had his life on hold since his partner and lover Krissy was critically injured in a climbing accident. She's in a coma with no chance of coming out of it. Her parents blame him and insist that she'll improve. Her sister knows the truth and tries to keep Michael informed about Krissy's condition. Hoping to get Michael back on track, his editor at Eco-Travel presents him with an assignment he hopes Michael can't refuse – a chance to go to Antarctica on an NSF visa to interview scientists and workers at Point Adélie. So, it's off to Antarctica, unaware that this story is going to take him places he never expected.
The novel starts with Michael and his story. But next thing you know you're in 1854 and a story about a nurse in training under Florence Nightingale, Eleanor Ames, and Lt. Sinclair Archibald Copley of the 17th Lancers. Once Eleanor and Sinclair are introduced, the narrative moves between the two stories as well as flashing back to the accident Michael and Krissy had on the mountain side. At first I was a bit confused as to why we were moving between two such diverse stories. Then when Sinclair and Eleanor were aboard a ship blown off course and heading south, I figured out what was going to eventually happen. Then it was a matter of waiting until what I suspected happened – it seemed to take forever.
Even so, the events of the 1854 story were so absorbing the wait wasn't too bad. I could have kicked myself when a lot of the pieces of Sinclair's and Eleanor's story fell into place. Hopefully, you'll twig to that bit before I did. Nevertheless, once the two story threads came together, I found it really frustrating that it took the crew and scientists of Point Adélie so long to figure out what was going on – I don't know, maybe they don't ever see the DVDs of TV shows down there, but still – this is such a standard trope that I hoped that the author would play off the expectation and put the reader off on a tangent. Instead, I found myself wishing I could knock some sense into these people. I'm getting tired of books that move the plot along by assuming the characters know nothing of current movies and TV – the present time is supposed to be current and this really knocked me out of the story.
With that personal bugaboo aside, I enjoyed Blood and Ice more for the historical thread centered around Sinclair and Eleanor than for the Antarctic storyline. On the other hand, the characters, scientists and crew, of the station were just so spot on (except for their suspicious lack of current culture), that I found them very realistic and believable.
Masello handled the two narrative threads ably moving from one time period to the other smoothly, each time adding more information for the reader to build a picture of these people and what motivated them. The setting and characters work together to make an interesting story of history, research, scientists, and love.