This is an update to a post first posted in March of 2009.
Thomas Wharton lived in the Peace Country until he was a teenager, then moved on to Jasper and Edmonton, where he lives now. His career path took a few major swings as well: he started off studying to be an illustrator, then moved to biological sciences, then became anchored on writing.
He started near the top, enrolling in a course taught by iconic Canadian novelist Rudy Wiebe. Wharton’s love of tall tales, folklore and mythology thrived under Wiebe’s tutelage. It wasn’t long before an idea for a book began to form, soon becoming the manuscript for Icefields. Fittingly, Wiebe was assigned editor by NeWest Books.
Icefields is set in Jasper, specifically on the Arcturus Glacier. It’s about Jasper: its geology, development, symbolism and beauty. It’s based on historical records as well as Wharton’s experiences in the Rockies and with Canadian folklore.
In 1898, Dr. Edward Burne slips into a crevasse on the Arcturus Glacier. Trapped upside down, waiting for rescue, Dr. Burne has begun a close study of the glacier that becomes a lifelong obsession.
Diverse characters and their individual but interlocking stories are woven together to tell a story about adventure, discovery, development and fulfillment for both the characters and the town of Jasper. But it’s a book about impressions and imagery, symbolism and beauty much more than a story with a strict plot. Some readers compare it to a reverie, or to a hallucination similar to Alice’s when she falls down the rabbits’ hole.
From the comments posted on Amazon.ca, you’ll either love this literary accomplishment or hate it. It’s not an easy read nor a quick one. It’s one of those books that critics gush about, and call true Canadian literature. But overall Icefields must have been well received, both in Canada and overseas, because it has seen at least seven printings. It won a multitude of prizes following its release in 1995.
After Icefields, Wharton wrote Salamander. This is a book about books, about fictional devices and all the permutations and combinations of story threads. It’s about the quest for a perfect, infinite book. It has a multi-layered structure that is, again, not a light read but an absorbing one.
Thomas Wharton has now published a trilogy of fantasy books for young adults, starting with The Shadow of Malabron: Welcome to the Perilous Realm. The Fathomless Fire and The Tree of Story continue the tale of the Perilous Realm.
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