Today is my stop on the blog tour for Cold from the North by D.W. Ross, organised by Storytellers on Tour. Please take a look at the other amazing bloggers who are also taking part in the tour here. Many thanks once again to Justine and Timy for having me on this tour.
Cold from the North by D.W. Ross
Series: Onyxborn Chronicle (#1)
Published: November 14, 2020
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Pages: 470 (Print Length)
CW: Violence, Gore
Driven by the promise of an ancient prophecy which will bring the dark ways of an old god back to power and prominence, an army of invaders swarms Ogulf Harlsbane’s homeland slaughtering all those who oppose them.
Along with his people, Ogulf must seek refuge from this savage force. In his search of sanctuary, he is tasked with finding the one person who can put a stop to the onslaught.
Doing so will send him across lands and seas, have him and his closest friend navigate the intricacies of a civil war, and try to win the help of the princess fighting for her throne.
If he fails, darkness will prevail and the reign of the Onyxborn will begin.
I read a digital copy of this book, thank you to Timy and Justine and to D.W. Ross for sending it to me.
Cold From the North is a Norse inspired fantasy set in the frozen northern country of Gelenea. It has been frozen for a couple of years now with no respite from the cold, crops have died out and everyone is weakened by hunger and the cold. The cold is so fundamental to the setting and well-being of the characters at the beginning of the story that it almost has a persona all of its own.
Ogulf Harlsbane and around eight hundred of his fellow townsfolk must embark on a perilous journey south over the Widows’ Trail from their town of Keltbran, in Broadheim. They are fleeing an invading army threatening them from the north. The Widows’ Trail is a tremendously difficult mountain pass and they lose a large number of their group along the way including someone important to our main character, Ogulf.
This loss hits Ogulf hard, especially since it was caused by his great friend Melcun trying to save them all from the archers who were catching up to them, by using his burgeoning sorcery talents, which broke the bridge they were crossing. The invading army has caught up with them at this point and they would not have survived had Melcun not cast his spell, but the inhabitants of the land of Broadheim are distrustful of sorcery, believing only the gods should have such power.
Death was chasing them now; the cold had been mobilised into an army of blades and malevolence that had stolen his lands and slaughtered his people.“
This whole beginning section of the story as the people of Keltbran negotiate their way over The Widows’ Trail is very exciting and tense as the townspeople have to flee, leaving behind everything they know. I think it was my favourite part of the book.
It also establishes the wonderfully heartwarming friendship between Meclun and Ogulf and his close relationship with his father, Rowden, the Earl of Keltbran and their leader. Having barely made it over the bridge safely, Ogulf is very relieved to see his father is also safe, but now people are aware of Melcun’s abilities. This leads to some anger amongst a few of the townsfolk, especially from Prundan, a loud and obnoxious, stubbornly opinionated man, who does not approve of magic users. Rowden is the ‘Voice of Reason’ among their group and is able to calm things down.
I really enjoyed the characterisation in this book. The main characters are well-rounded and their motives are clear and make sense. You are never left questioning why a character acted in a certain way.
Rowden has felt somewhat lost since the death of his wife and rather than being an arrogant leader, he appears thoughtful and vulnerable:
Rowden stroked his beard again. ‘I suppose you’re right. I just feel lost in a way. I am the earl of a pile of ash with only half my townsfolk, no chieftain, and a butcher, farmers, and an innkeeper for captains.’
Ogulf is a thoroughly nice guy who is very considerate of his friends’ feelings. He is also generally empathetic and wants nothing more than to save his people. He has been given a mission, which was entrusted to him on the journey by his dying chieftain. He must deliver an axe to someone called Feda and it may save their world! Unfortunately he has no idea who or where Feda is, but being the resourceful chap that he is, this is soon no longer a problem.
Meclun is insecure and struggling with his developing magical powers, having had to hide them all his life. He knows nothing about his abilities or the history of magic in his land and is in dire need of some form of training.
The much depleted group makes it south to Luefmort, known as the gate to the Shingally Empire, and enjoys hospitality from Lord Hanrik and his son Danrin.
Shingal is a much warmer and peaceful kingdom but they are aware a threat is coming and are prepared to change their old ways. Prince Zickari is a kind of reformist – his mother is still on the throne but soon he will be king. This far south, Ogulf enjoys the feeling of warmth from the sun and it feels like he and Meclun are starting to thaw out somewhat, along with Oglun’s tactical abilities and Meclun’s sorcery. No longer concentrating on warmth and not freezing or starving to death they are able to focus more on their particular personal strengths.
In Lord Hanrik’s castle they talk to a wise man whose mind is addled, but who explains to them that the invading army is probably from Visser and that they are most likely the Order of Maledict who follow a prophecy known as the ‘Onyxborn prophecy’.
Here Melcun also meets Crindasa, a mage who offers to try and teach him during their short stay in Luefmort. She teaches him the story of Loken and it reads like a well known fable. He is very taken by both her looks and knowledge of magicka.
The magic system in Cold From the North is an interesting one in that power is drawn by a mage from certain mountain peaks known as the ‘Peaks of Influence’. However the power of these peaks is not infinite and they can be drained by overuse. Melcun learns that the ‘Peaks of Influence’ were first discovered by Loken and that they feed the powers of magicka within a sorcerer. He finds that he is feeling stronger and more powerful since he is further south and near live peaks now, which will be pushing their power out to him and feeding his abilities as opposed to the dormant peaks of influence in Broadheim:
Broadheim was the strongest country in all the realm when it came to magicka and all things arcane. But when Medin tried to invade, they used the collective powers of all the Peaks in Broadheim to create The Chasm and the great expanse of The Throws. They intentionally drained all the life of their Peaks in the hope that doing so would keep any further invaders from the north at bay.
Cold from the North is a plot-driven story and as Ogulf and Melcun travel through the land of Gelenea we discover more about the world and get to know plenty of new characters through Ogulf’s eyes. He seems to be a pretty good judge of character. He decides he likes the peaceful Hanrik and Danrin almost immediately and enlists Danrin’s help in the next stage of the journey, which takes them to Essalonia, a country embroiled in civil war, whose leader is called Feda Essel. Could she be the Feda they are looking for?
We discover that King Nadreth of Visser is indeed the leader of the invading army. He hopes to fulfill the Onyxborn prophecy with a teenage girl sorcerer called Nevea, who was found in the Keltbran temple. She is an incredibly powerful mage and it seems that there is little hope to win against an army on whose side she is fighting.
Cold From the North does not read like a debut. The world-building is solid, the battle scenes are well-written and exciting and the characters are believable. I am excited to read the next installment in The Onyxborn Chronicles and to find out if the axe Ogulf has been carrying to Feda is indeed as important in the fight against the evil army as the Essalonians believe.
Add to your To Be Read list here:
About the Author
D.W. Ross is an author who took the boredom of lockdown 2020 to another level by deciding to write a book despite having no experience in doing anything of the sort before – to say he never thought he would get this far is an understatement. One book has become a series, and now there is no stopping his creative mind as he plots books daily that he will absolutely never get to writing. Cold From The North was his first novel, with follow up The Darkest Dusk due out in 2021 with the closing novel of the Onyxborn Chronicles coming in early 2022. When not writing, he can be found watching pro wrestling, reading fantasy, dystopian and thriller novels, gaming, lifting weights and eating chicken wings. D.W. lives in Scotland with his wife.