Peter Scudamore, a former captain in the Royalist Army, has unwittingly become a tool in a game much larger than it seems. When Peter assists the English Queen in her escape to Paris, he finds himself caught up in the machinations of the infamous Corvay, a man determined to be the final word in espionage – and becomes friends with the enigmatic Guyon de Chesnay, a scholar and tutor of debate at the Sorbonne. Guyon’s service, too, is eventually bought by Corvay, but at a price he is unwilling to disclose, and which is directly linked to the Archbishop de Retz of Paris. As the two men fight to survive the intrigues of Court and Church, and those of a man who wants to gain power in his own right, they grow closer to each other in ways that neither one would ever have expected.
Review by Jess Faraday
The length is daunting–684 pages with around 400 words per page. And yet the prose is crisp and clean: never purple, never overwritten. In addition, I was bowled over by the immense research that the author obviously put into the story–not just historical events, but setting, character, clothing, and so on. By the end of the first chapter, which flew by, I had high hopes–and though it took a while to eventually learn how the first chapter fit in with the rest of the story, ultimately, I was not disappointed.
The second chapter introduced the snappy dialogue and witty repartee that would characterize the rest of the novel. Unfortunately, the chapter was long, and not much else seemed to happen. A more patient reader might revel in long passages that illustrate character through word-play. But by the middle of the second chapter, I found my eyes passing quickly over vast swathes of well-crafted, low-tension writing, searching for something to happen.
Fortunately, by the third chapter, the story picked up again, laying down several exciting plotlines: espionage, political intrigue, and romance–oh my! And by this point, I was hooked.
This is not a book for someone who wants a quick, uncomplicated read. But neither is it inaccessible. Though the author sometimes makes the mistake of assuming too much knowledge on the part of the reader–an easy mistake to make when one has absolutely immersed oneself in research, as Wyndham clearly has–the story is interesting and well crafted. The characters are subtle, rich, and complex.
This also isn’t a book for someone who just wants a bit of titillation and a clear path to HEA.
Rather, this is a book for someone who enjoys reading. For someone who likes to settle into a well-crafted, complex story and enjoy the unfolding. It’s a book for someone who likes to think about what they’re reading, and to savor it afterward, turning over the characters and plot twists in their mind. It’s for someone who enjoys romance as a slow burn, gradually and realistically developing, rather than love-at-first-sight-sex-at-second.
It’s a book for grown-ups.
I’m giving Icy Pavements four and a half stars. Though it was slow to begin, once it did, it grabbed me and didn’t let go. Ultimately, it’s a fantastic read with sympathetic, three-dimensional characters and an intriguing, complex, and well-structured plot. In addition, the amount of work and research that has gone into it is clear from the very first page. And though one of the perks of reviewing is getting to read books for free, this is one that I intend to purchase for my collection.