So, with the introduction of the Icecarls in the last book, I thought Nix would spend a bit more time in the world that shouldn’t exist outside the Castle. I mean, they got giant narwhals, Shield Maidens and other things that have learned to live without sunlight. Nope, we’re going to go skipping back to the Castle. Even with Nix’s world building, the Castle is still rather stereotypical with its magical hierarchy and politics. At least the outside world is new and different. (Giant narwhals, guys, like, the size of a Greyhound bus.)
Tal and Milla are taken to the Crones, which are kind of the governing body of the Icecarls. A group of old women, guarded by Shield Maidens, who operate some sort of telepathic link to each viking ship and send out maidens as needs be for any issues that arise. The Crones, through plot serendipity, have a tiny map of a hidden way into the Castle. Usually, I can suspend disbelief enough that I don’t question these types of plot points, but having finished the whole series and had time to ruminate, this really stuck in my craw. So the Crones saved a dude that was wandering mindlessly in the wastes outside the Castle. He was mostly insane at this point, whittled this tiny map in a piece of bone and then died. Now, when Milla and Tal use this map, they discover a skeleton with some helpful items in its possession and then later in the series, it’s revelaed who this person was, why they were there and had those things. It’s all tied up with a nice bow. Whittling dude? Nothing. No later call backs as to who that guy was other than a deus ex machina. See? Stuck in my craw.
So they make it into the Castle and get some help from Tal’s eccentric uncle, Ebbitt. Milla makes some comments about how it’s ride that there’s the magic users and then the other people that they use as servants. And Tal’s all, “that’s just the way it is.” It’s all a bit cringey and eyerolling, but I’m also an adult reading a kid’s book, so I’m really not the target audience.
Milla gets captured and taken to the nightmaritorium, but the Crones kind of save her with their telepathy. Again, making the people of the ice ten times more interesting than those in the Castle, so can we go back to them? Tal gets her out and Ebbitt tells them they both must go to Aenir and retrieve the Codex, for reasons. Which is kind of against everything Milla stands for, since unlike the people of the Castle, the Icecarls remember their history and know that the world went dark because of people going into Aenir and making friends with spirits/shadows. But hey, let’s not worry about ice people when there are Castle people.