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Reviewed by Nell Mace-David
Opening sentence
The Kiwi adventure of a lifetime, reviewed by Nell Mace-David
December 13, 2022

‘Night was falling, dark and dank. The dog crouched beside the wreckage, gazing up at the sky. Slowly a large red moon rose over the mountain, flooding the snow in bloody light. She lifted her muzzle to the moon and howled, long and sad.’

In Ice by Susan Brocker, Zac thinks video games are where real adventures happen. Reality is boring, and he would rather spend time helping his hero battle monsters and brave epic quests. But he is about to be thrust into an epic quest of his own, one to rival his video games; the adventure of a lifetime…

Ice was all alone, sitting in the shelter, about to be put down when she catches Zac’s eye. Zac doesn’t want to fall for his parent’s scheme of getting him a dog so that he spends more time away from the computer, but he can’t exactly just leave her there, can he? Turns out, having a dog isn’t as easy as he thought it would be, especially one who seems to be perpetually sad. But Zac can’t really blame Ice for being sad if she was found stuck out in the snow in Cardrona Valley. That’s enough to make anyone depressed.

Zac may not have wanted a dog, but he certainly didn’t want a summer job either. Okay, maybe he shouldn’t have lied to his dad about school camp, and then he wouldn’t be being forced to work for his dad’s boss, Mr. Slagter – or, as some of Slagter’s employees know him, the Butcher. Slagter is really rich, and owns the conservation park that Zac is being forced to work at.

About this conservation park. When you think of a place like that in NZ, you think birds, right? Well, actually, wrong. Turns out, Mr. Slagter has taken a shine to exotic animals, and decided that Wānaka is the best place for them to be. Think elephants, lions, tigers, which is a bit weird, considering these animals are endangered. Add on top of that the fact that somehow, Slagter knows Ice, and Ice knows, or rather, hates, Slagter. Does Slagter have something to do with Ice’s abandonment? And, what is going on at this weird conservation park?

Brocker has written the Kiwi adventure of a lifetime, full of secrets and daring.

I love dogs, and I really liked the fact that a dog was the star of the show in this book. I also learned a little bit about working dogs. I knew that there were search and rescue dogs and stuff, but I didn’t know that they used dogs to defend against poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

Speaking of poaching, I think the fact that Brocker addresses this issue is hugely important. Because we don’t have many native mammals in New Zealand, we tend to think of poaching as happening in other countries and not our problem. The truth is it does happen here, and just because we aren’t directly connected to poaching in other countries doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening and that it isn’t important. There are a lot of species that are close to dying out because of this, so it is important to spread awareness about it.

There are always two sides to a story though, another thing that this book demonstrates. It doesn’t justify whatever happens, but people always have their reasons, good or not, and you should remember to look at those reasons because it might change the way that you look at the whole issue. The bigger picture is always important, and people aren’t always doing things of their own free will. This element really added some more depth and dimension to the story. In a lot of books where there is an enemy of sorts this isn’t addressed, but in Ice it was, which I liked.

There were a few things I struggled with in this book though. One was the setting. I have been to Wānaka, and I could never imagine there being this kind of wildlife trade going on there. It felt very out of place and disconnected, and it meant that I found it hard to connect with certain parts of the story.

I also found that the pace of the book didn’t really work for me. While I don’t like a really slow book with a lot of detail, there also needs to be time to absorb what is going on. The in-between scenes without a lot of action are important, and I think that there were some bits where Ice really needed this. There is also a fine line between having a good opening hook and throwing the reader into the story without enough introduction, and I think that Ice didn’t really achieve that balance. I didn’t know enough about the characters before the action happened, so their impact was lost. However, the one character I did really connect with was Ice herself. It may sound weird, but I felt like I really understood her, simply because at the start of the book we learn a little bit about her past. If there had been some form of introduction for Zac, then I would have felt the same way about him.

Otherwise, Ice was a good, action-packed read, for fans of Hatchet and other adventure stories. I would also recommend this book if you are 10+, and don’t want a long or difficult book. Happy reading!

- Nell is 14, homeschooled, and lives in Dunedin
Author & Illustrator: Susan Brocker
Publisher: Scholastic