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Non 1001 Book Review: Under a Pole Star Stef Penney

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Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★
Find it here: Under a Pole Star

This ARC was provided by Quercus Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from Goodreads: Flora Mackie was twelve when she first crossed the Arctic Circle on her father’s whaling ship. Now she is returning to the frozen seas as the head of her own exploration expedition. Jakob de Beyn was raised in Manhattan, but his yearning for new horizons leads him to the Arctic as part of a rival expedition. When he and Flora meet, all thoughts of science and exploration give way before a sudden, all-consuming love.

The affair survives the growing tensions between the two groups, but then, after one more glorious summer on the Greenland coast, Jakob joins his leader on an extended trip into the interior, with devastating results.

The stark beauty of the Arctic ocean, where pack ice can crush a ship like an eggshell, and the empty sweep of the tundra, alternately a snow-muffled wasteland and an unexpectedly gentle meadow, are vividly evoked. Against this backdrop Penney weaves an irresistible love story, a compelling look at the dark side of the golden age of exploration, and a mystery that Flora, returning one last time to the North Pole as an old woman, will finally lay to rest.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: Having read and enjoyed The Tenderness of Wolves, I was excited to read this latest book by Stef Penney. Although it sells itself as a romance novel, that aspect of the book was actually the least interesting for me. The best parts were the details of exploration and survival.

Under a Pole Star is set in the early days of Artic exploration when the pole was yet to be discovered and there were miles of land just waiting to be claimed by the plucky British or Americans (yep they totally disregarded any claim that the native people might have to the land).

The frozen landscape is central to the story, showing how hardy the Inuit have to be to survive there year round and how tough the conditions are on those who are not native to the land. It also shows how English and American greed leads to tragedy for everyone involved with the exploration.

The book is scattered with Inuit words and with details and images of the stars used for navigation. This is an ambitious book that doesn’t really deliver on the romance, but that transported me to the frozen lands of the North.

Who would enjoy this? This is a long and detailed book so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for a light romance, instead if you are interested in details about polar exploration and survival with romance as a sideline then this could be the book for you.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Under a Pole Star

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