Lately, it’s been so hot that the dogs at work refuse to get up off the ground of their air-conditioned suites even to go play in the lake.
If that’s not an option for you (and your eyes haven’t yet melted out of your skull), try immersing yourself in the frozen worlds of these nine speculative fiction novels.
They’re all Goodreads-reviewer guaranteed to give you literal chills.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Chill Factors: Frost-demons and medieval Russian winter
Blustery Blurb: At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
Raw Review: “It’s told a bit like a Russian fairy tale only the setting is very grounded in a reality that will leave your nose and toes chilled and make you wish a horse like that would come your way.” – Robin Hobb
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Chill Factors: Canadian author, a story called “A Lady’s Hands are Cold,” cool and dark illustrations
Blurb: Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…
Raw Review: “Goosebumps. Full of them. Reading this horror filled graphic novel during night-time turned out to be a terrifying idea. Yet, I couldn’t stop reading.” – Lola Reviewer
Cold Magic by Kate Elliot
Chill Factors: Cold magic, for one; a super unique fantasy-science fiction novel setting; a world that must stay cold for the magic to work
Blustery Blurb: The Wild Hunt is stirring – and the dragons are finally waking from their long sleep…
Cat Barahal was the only survivor of the flood that took her parents. Raised by her extended family, she and her cousin, Bee, are unaware of the dangers that threaten them both. Though they are in beginning of the Industrial Age, magic – and the power of the Cold Mages – still hold sway.
Now, betrayed by her family and forced to marry a powerful Cold Mage, Cat will be drawn into a labyrinth of politics. There she will learn the full ruthlessness of the rule of the Cold Mages. What do the Cold Mages want from her? And who will help Cat in her struggle against them?
Raw Review: “Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic is about as slippery as dress shoes on ice. But fortunately without the painful fall.” – Alex Fayle
Far North by Will Hobbs
Chill Factors: Northern Canadian frozen wilderness, bears, moose, wolves, environmental horror (which always gives me chills), maybe some important messages about conservation??
Blustery Blurb: From the window of the small floatplane, fifteen-year-old Gabe Rogers is getting his first look at Canada’s magnificent Northwest Territories with Raymond Providence, his roommate from boarding school. Below is the spectacular Nahanni River — wall-to-wall whitewater racing between sheer cliffs and plunging over Virginia Falls. The pilot sets the plane down on the lake-like surface of the upper river for a closer look at the thundering falls. Suddenly the engine quits. The only sound is a dull roar downstream, as the Cessna drifts helplessly toward the falls . . .
With the brutal subarctic winter fast approaching, Gabe and Raymond soon find themselves stranded in Deadmen Valley. Trapped in a frozen world of moose, wolves, and bears, two boys from vastly different cultures come to depend on each other for their very survival.
Raw Review: “Throughout the story, the author tossed in many facts about Canada’s geography, Native American beliefs, and what happens when temperatures drop below zero.” – Malinda Quinn
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Chill Factors: That coverrrr, Alaska, snow and a snow myth, heterosexual bed death (It’s a thing now.)
Blustery Blurb: Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
Raw Review: “It’s charm is upheld by the characters, the relationships, and the sad, cold mood that seems to permeate the entire novel from open to close. It is the kind of novel that I sometimes have trouble with, the kind not concerned with action or drama, but more subdued and subtle. However, I was fortunate in that the characters held my attention throughout and the relationship between Mabel and Jack carried something simultaneously heart-warming and bittersweet that really spoke to me.” – The Book Geek
Ice by Anna Kavan
Chill Factors: Frozen world, glacial encroachment, Cold War themes, environmental horror
Blustery Blurb: In this haunting and surreal novel, the narrator and a man known as “the warden” search for an elusive girl in a frozen, post-nuclear, apocalyptic landscape. The country has been invaded and is being governed by a secret organization. There is destruction everywhere; great walls of ice overrun the world in this hallucinatory quest-novel. Acclaimed by Brian Aldiss on its publication in 1967 as the best science fiction book of the year, this extraordinary and innovative novel has subsequently been recognized as a major work of literature in its own right.
Raw Review: “Encroachment of sheets of ice is covering the world little by little. A war is taking place. The story is mostly set in a Scandinavian-like country with a tinge of a Cold War Eastern European country.
“To me it was most like Kafka, Borges, Scaramago: like series of dream images each flowing into the other.” – Jane
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Chill Factors: A science fictional ice planet named Winter, a treck across a glacier
Blustery Blurb: Ursula K. LeGuin’s Hugo- and Nebula-Award-winning science fiction novel.
A lone human ambassador is sent to Winter, an alien world without sexual prejudice, where the inhabitants can change their gender whenever they choose. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the strange, intriguing culture he encounters…
Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.
Raw Review: “There is a beautiful interplay of concepts that resonate through the work – the concept of light and darkness, sitting apt within the plot since the setting is Ice Age – like an echo, rebounds at us everywhere we look – the blinding light, the blinding darkness.” – Lit Bug
The Terror by Dan Simmons
Chill Factors: A ship ride through the Arctic, horror set in the Northwest Passage, an Inuit character
Blustery Blurb: Greeted with excited critical praise, this extraordinary novel-inspired by the true story of two ice ships that disappeared in the Arctic Circle during an 1845 expedition-swells with the heart-stopping suspense and heroic adventure that have won Dan Simmons praise as “a writer who not only makes big promises but keeps them” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). THE TERROR chills readers to the core.
Raw Review: “The only book that ever gave me chills.” – someone in my reading group
The Night Wanderer by Drew Hayden Taylor
Chill Factors: A chilling horror by an Indigenous Canadian author, Canadian winter
Blustery Blurb: Nothing ever happens on the Otter Lake reservation. But when 16-year-old Tiffany discovers her father is renting out her room, she’s deeply upset. Sure, their guest is polite and keeps to himself, but he’s also a little creepy.
Little do Tiffany, her father, or even her astute Granny Ruth suspect the truth. The mysterious Pierre L’Errant is actually a vampire, returning to his tribal home after centuries spent in Europe. But Tiffany has other things on her mind: her new boyfriend is acting weird, disputes with her father are escalating, and her estranged mother is starting a new life with somebody else. Fed up and heartsick, Tiffany threatens drastic measures and flees into the bush. There, in the midnight woods, a chilling encounter with L’Errant changes everything … for both of them.
A mesmerizing blend of Gothic thriller and modern coming-of-age novel, THE NIGHT WANDERER is unlike any other vampire story.
Raw Review: “Shivers and chills in an Anishinabe setting… refreshingly smart humour.” – Patty Lawlor, Quill and Quire