Icefall reminds me a lot of The Ranger’s Apprentice, and that’s not a bad thing. Icefall is set in a Viking community and deals with Norse mythology but doesn’t cross into a fantasy adventure, per se. It’s more historical fiction, although we don’t know how far back in the past it takes place. Nowhere does Thor come down to Earth and start smiting trolls or whatever. Instead, main character Solveig’s conflicts are universal struggles of worth and acceptance.
Solveig’s father is king. Her older sister is beautiful, her younger brother is strong and heir to the throne. This right there makes it very similar to most middle grade/YA tales. Even All-American Girl by Meg Cabot had this type of middle child angst. I kindof liked that, though. Solveig is not the chosen one nor is her rise to heroism something akin to farmboy Eragon/Luke Skywalker.
While struggling to figure out who she is, Solveig discovers the life of the skald. Skalds are Norse storytellers and they are in charge of the history of their people. Solveig and her steading are trapped in a small valley surrounded by ice and she learns to tell stories until their time in the steading is done. When the ice thaws, her father should return and everything will end happily. What complicates this, though, is that they are running out of food and, moreover, someone is poisoning their warriors. Solveig must figure out which member of her trusted steading is the traitor.
There’s some action, especially towards the end, but the bigger selling point is the mystery of the traitor. The steading becomes weaker and weaker and there may be no one left when the king returns unless Solveig can find the traitor. Again, not much traditional fantasy here. No dragons or mages, although those show up in the tales that Solveig weaves. What you do have in the story is a good mystery with likable characters.