Catehrine Fisher deserves to be far, far better known because she has a rare gift of being able to tell gripping stories in beautiful, shapely prose - no surprise to discover she's also a poet. This was the first novel of hers I read, and I've since re-read it to my children many times. If you're at all interested in the Vikings or Norse mythology it's especially useful, as it draws on these while creating a wholly believeable world (I also recommend the Margrave books, and The Oracle, which has just been short-listed for the Whitbread Prize). The story begins with the evil witch Gudrun exiling her own baby son, Kari, and a huge warrior who has dared to cross her to the bitter north. Kari is supposed a monster, but when a small band of rebels is also exiled there, they find the truth to be very different....for Kari has inherited his mother's powers but struggles to find acceptance among human beings. There are sub-plots such as the growing attraction between Jessa 'two-knives' and the skald or poet, but the main thrust of the plot is the chilling battle between Kari and his mother, or between love and hate, courage and fear, trust and lies. There are unforgettable images, such as Kari's crystal-strung room, the enchanted snake-bracelets biting into the flesh, the werewolf fighting the bear and the frozen bridge at the rim of the world. Each novel has the bite and crack of ice in it, the love of a good tale told by the fire-side that makes your hair stand up. I can't recommend them too highly for 8+. Oh, and they'd also make great films.