April 15, 2009
This month, I received this surprisingly good tale from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. It was released by St. Martin’s Press in early March and is available now. As always, my appreciation to LibraryThing and the participating publishers.
Woven with the ageless mystique of Nordic myth and the wistful complexities of families, Sunley’s debut novel aches with something that notches it into the truly compelling. Her prose is wiser than her rookie status would suggest, echoing with cadences and feminine woe reminiscent of Joyce Carol Oates.
Her linking of ancient Icelandic sagas to modern (and timeless) human archetypes is thoughtful, if not ground-breaking. Her plotsmithing is decent if, if not masterful (the final denouement arrived with a serious, heavy “duh” for me). It’s hard to pinpoint what it is here, but the sum of this novel’s parts is captivating. One does not want to let go of the frozen breaths of Iceland, the difficult and wan (eponymous) protagonist.
Sometimes Sunley is too expository: she tends to tell us what neuroses and metaphors her characters are suffering; she analyzes their dreams so we don’t have to (sometimes I would have liked to figure out the puzzle myself). Similarly, she is predisposed to long passages prefacing the profundity of upcoming content. But it works here, the quasi-adolescent, stark emotional clarity. It feels moving, even if Freya is just telling us that it is so. Even if it feels like Sunley herself is cracking through her own protagonist and taking on the narrator’s spotlight for a while.
Maybe it is just my own fascination with Iceland cracking through my own thoughts like Sunley’s voice through Freya’s, but there was something stormy and mysterious, something odd in keeping with midnight suns and lava fields, that made “The Tricking of Freya” more than just a passing thought.