Dangerous Secrets is the greatly anticipated prequel to Frozen II which, for the first time in forever, shines the spotlight onto King Agnarr and Queen Iduna of Arendelle.
The 2019 film undoubtedly revealed some of these secrets, such as Iduna being Northuldra and saving Agnarr as a child as well as the two of them venturing to Ahtohallan to find the answers behind Elsa’s powers. Unfortunately, thanks to the film, we also know that they never completed their journey.
Cue Mari Mancusi who expertly bring the monarchs back to life through her writing and forms these little-known characters into best friends, young lovers and torn parents, always just trying to do the next right thing.
The back stories of Agnarr and Iduna are nothing short of brilliant: the reader meets both characters in the Enchanted Forest on the fateful day of the dam celebration and we experience the wonder of both worlds colliding, along with the following danger and confusion from a first-person perspective.
I thoroughly appreciated how Mari Mancusi didn’t have to explain what had happened between the Arendellian forces and the Northuldra: Mancusi knows that the reader already knows the true turn of events from the movie. All throughout Dangerous Secrets this “inside knowledge” is used beautifully: allowing us to experience events as our protagonists do, but without diluting the tension and excitement with explanations.
The reader grows up alongside the future King and Queen, seeing their friendship blossom and experiencing their respective heartbreaks and secrets. The Northuldra are widely believed to be enemies of Arendelle due to the King’s death and the rumours surrounding it. Iduna’s hardship of hiding her true identity is matched only by her grief of losing the only family she has ever known. Similarly, Agnarr has lost a father, his best friend General Matthias and now has to learn how to be a King. Even when they find solace in their friendship and the later romance that this grows into, Iduna is not royalty: their love is doomed from the start…isn’t it?
Regular readers of my reviews will know I loved Jen Calonita’s “Let it Go” but felt that towards the end the writing emulated the movie verbatim in places. I found Kamilla Benko’s “Forest of Shadows” interesting and unique but ultimately it tried too hard to insert different elements into the Frozen universe that we know and love.
In my opinion, Dangerous Secrets contains none of these criticisms.
Elements of the movie are included, of course they are! Agnarr and Iduna’s reading tree is taken straight out of Elsa’s/Ahtohallan’s ice memories; Oaken’s trading post and sauna is briefly mentioned as a rest stop during one of the couple’s adventures and the wonder of chocolate is something Elsa and Anna definitely inherited from their parents!
The difference with this novel is that any references to the movie are easter eggs: elements that we love to spot; they are not brash and in-your-face; they are subtle and add to the story rather than creating it entirely. For example, I loved the inclusion of Grand-Pabbie and the trolls. I also suspect we may have met Kristoff’s mother – perhaps opening the door to another book from Mari Mancusi?
Of course, Dangerous Secrets can only end with the fateful voyage made by the royal couple and, true to form, this made me cry my little heart out. I know from the author’s note that Mari Mancusi is a mother herself but I feel that I would have known this anyway through the sheer heartbreak she portrays through Iduna, and later Agnarr. From their first discovery of Elsa’s powers; to Anna’s accident; to acknowledging that they were endangering Elsa by asking her to “conceal, don’t feel” right up until the couple’s realisation that they will never see their daughters again: the writing is powerful, hard-hitting and, with Ahtohallan’s last gift, stunningly beautiful.
This is a five-star glimpse into the King and Queen of Arendelle and a must-read for any fan of Frozen.
Will Mancusi reveal the secret of the ice-gatherer woman’s identity next?
Only Ahtohallan knows.