Skip to main content

Review of The Ice Owl: A Fantastical Tale That’s Sadly Incomplete

Samie is a voracious reader who enjoys getting lost in the fantastical futures of the science fiction genre.


The Ice Owl by Carolyn Ive Gilman

So it has been a crazy couple of weeks, but I finally got some free time to sneak in a short story. This is another short from The Year's Best Science Fiction 29th Edition. The story is a little oddity called The Ice Owl by Carolyn Ive Gilman.

What Is It About?

It is a far-future tale set in a galaxy far far away. On another planet lives a girl named Thorn with her mother Maya. They have a long history of running from planet to planet because Thorn was illegally born and her DNA is the property of her father. They are currently living near the slums in the city of Glory To God.

The slums are spit on by the higher-ups who are morally effected by money in their own way. But a new movement rises called "The Incorruptible." When these Incorruptibles burn down her school, she becomes an apprentice to a friend of her mother, Mr. Pregalden. There she learns about his work and about the history of the Vind and Gminta races. Thorn learns there’s more to people than she first knew and things aren’t meant to last forever.

The Good

This is an interesting piece of work. Traditionally, I couldn’t care less for space opera sort of stories. But this had something special to it. It’s a fantastical world that was not so fantastical that it was outrageous. It seemed somewhat grounded and relatable. That made things so great as well. And the story has a lot of original, unique elements and storylines tied seamlessly together. It’s a meaty little story.

The Bad

Well first off, there is a huge plot hole. Thorn is not human and is around a hundred years old, so it doesn’t make sense that she is in school. Also, a lot of names are thrown out from the beginning. The Vind, Gmitras, and Protectorate are among a few groups of people to keep track of and need to remember. Also, the races of people are not described. Thorn, among others in this story, is not human. I would just like some character detail.

But my biggest gripe with this story is the ending. There are four interesting storylines that made me realize I had no idea where it was going. And it was all so enjoyable and great, that I just knew if the author continued in this spectacular fashion, this might be one of my favorite stories. But then the author pulled the brakes to a terrible sudden ending within the next page. It was like the author just said screw it and wrote some BS down just to get it done with it, which is a shame.

And in the context of the story the ending doesn’t make sense. What about the Incorruptibles and their revolution? Hunter’s Story? Mr Pregaldins’ quest for revenge? The ice owl even? It’s all cut short promptly to take on a nonsensical ending about mommy issues for some reason, which makes little sense because Thorn is around a hundred (though she looks like a child) and shouldn’t be under her mother’s care anyway. It’s all very disappointing.

The Takeaway

Overall, this is a great imaginative read that could have been so much better. I don’t know why it has such a poor ending that hurts so much. So I can’t recommend it to everyone due to the disappointment. But if you like something that can spark your imagination and have those ideas rattle in your head a little while because you've never seen them before, then you’ll get something out of it. It just has no ending. It’s like a half-finished movie. It’s just incomplete.

Overall Rating: 2.5/4.