Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

Beyond the Frozen Horizon by Nicola Penfold

In the year 2030, world leaders pledged a coordinated and unprecedented response to the Climate Crisis. There are strict Global Climate Laws. Low impact living is no longer optional – it has to be compulsory if the world has any chance of recovery. Large areas of the Earth have been made into designated World Wilderness Zones that will act as wildlife refuges and absorb carbon. One of these zones is the High Arctic.

Rory’s mum is an environmental geologist. When she gets a new job with Greenlight, a company aiming to extract rare earth metals from the Arctic using special bacteria, they are given the chance of a lifetime – to travel to the Svalbard archipelago. Mum must write a report about the impact of the company’s plan while Rory is keen to avoid the loneliness of trying to fit in at school and see the northern animals she’s always dreamed of.

In the High Arctic Wilderness Zone, it’s essential visitors only. The animal population is finally increasing but it won’t take long before the wilderness isn’t really wild anymore. Every time a new person arrives, the natural balance is in greater danger. Local people in the town of Pyramiden are very suspicious of the intruders working with Greenlight. Old mining families, they know what can happen when everything goes wrong and can see the impact of Greenlight’s plans on the people, animals and the land. As truth is revealed, Rory tries to make friends with the local children and takes it upon herself to investigate their claims about the company. She wants to help and bring peace to the ghosts of the past.

Nicola Penfold’s understanding of the Climate Crisis and the human response to it is stunning. Even when the world is approaching the point of no return and people are forced to change their way of life, selfishness and a lack of respect for the wilderness take control. It seems that humans will never learn. Despite this bleak dystopian outlook, Rory proves that “Perhaps a child understands better than any of us.” She sees the impact of wrong choices and fights to prevent further damage that could last thousands of years.

The setting of this gripping story is a true celebration of the wild north. The land of bears, ice and lights, the description of its beauty is compelling. Having grown-up in Canada where winters get extremely cold, I shivered along with Rory. I recognised the shock of the cold air in her lungs, the heart-breaking power of a starry sky on an icy night and the majesty of the aurora borealis. Rory is desperate to see Arctic animals: seals, whales, reindeer, foxes, and the mighty polar bear. These animals are treated with the greatest respect and portrayed with realistic danger. They are as important as the humans who make their home there and their presence is the yard stick by which any environmental impact is measured.

Beyond the Frozen Horizon is a lesson for us all. Humans must change their ways. We must look beyond our own needs and think about impact on the world as a whole. The High Arctic is precious and something that can never be replicated if we allow it to disappear. Rory experiences this first hand and takes her readers on a high stakes adventure that will leave them thinking about their place and impact on the world for a very long time.

**I was so pleased to see the Svalbard Seed Vault mentioned when Rory and her mother first arrive in Norway. This is an incredible project – absolutely huge in its undertaking – that will have an impact years into the future. I have included an article about the Millennium Seed Bank in the UK and the Svalbard Seed Vault in my Years 5-6 Non-fiction book in the Developing Reading Comprehension Skills series.

Thank you to Little Tiger and NetGalleyUK for an early copy of this incredible book! It will be published 1.9.22

Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon or

Books by Kate Heap:

Available to pre-order:

Nonfiction: Years 5/6

Nonfiction: Years 3/4

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