Monday, 25 November 2013

Ice Breaker: The Hidden Series

Ice Breaker: The Hidden Series 1 by Lian Tanner (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $18.99
ISBN 978-1-74331-434-0
Reviewed by Ann Harth

Petrel lives on an icebreaker seemingly bound for nowhere. When she was an infant, her parents committed an unspeakable crime and were thrown into the icy waters below. Petrel became the Nothing Girl, shunned and ignored by the tribes who live, work and battle on the ancient ship. She steals food to survive, curling into forgotten corners of the ship for warmth and safety from the hatred of the others. Her only friends are Mr Smoke and Miss Slink, two large and intelligent rats.

In this first book of the Hidden Series, Lian Tanner has created a self-contained society on a ship that has been travelling through icy waters for centuries. After a bloody battle 200 years before, the population of the Oyster split into three jealously guarded territories. Although Petrel is not turned away at the borders, she is not welcomed, either. In the eyes of the ship’s inhabitants, 12-year-old Petrel is lower than the rats who have befriended her.

The tide begins to turn when Petrel spots a frozen boy on an iceberg. She informs the crew and the boy is brought on board and locked away. The tribes argue over his fate, some wanting to extract information from him, others certain he is lethal and wishing to throw him off the ship to die in the icy grip of the sea. Petrel helps him to escape and feels responsible for his fate, but when the ship’s First Officer is murdered, the frozen boy is the most likely suspect. All three tribes join forces to look for the boy and Petrel tries to protect him while conflicted with her own questions about his sudden appearance.

As the story unfolds, the mysteries surrounding the frozen boy, the purpose of the ship and even the deaths of Petrel’s parents are revealed. Lian Tanner skilfully weaves emotion, excitement and surprising twists throughout this fast-paced book bringing them all together in a satisfying conclusion.

Ice Breaker is a suitable novel for 9-13 year olds and many will easily identify with Petrel. She is a convincing character and her introspection helped me to feel like I was experiencing the events of the story right along with her. Petrel’s courage in the face of loneliness and ridicule will work to empower young readers.

Lian Tanner creates bold and colourful characters.  Her professional life includes, but is not limited to, work as an actor, a teacher, a tour bus driver and a juggler. Her Keeper’s Series has won many awards and The Hidden Series promises the same. For more information about Lian Tanner, please visit

Ann Harth is a published children's author and writing tutor at Australian College of Journalism. She loves to read, write and is committed to creating children's literature that inspires, entertains and triggers a tiny twist in the mind. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Art of Magic, and her book for budding authors, Writing for Children – In the Beginning are available from Amazon.

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