Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney

‘Under a Pole Star’ is a beautiful romance surrounded by Arctic exploration in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

When Flora Mackie’s mother died, she was only 12 years old and her father wasn’t sure what to do with her. He was the captain of an Arctic whaling ship and he decided to take Flora with him. The trips to the Arctic continued till Flora was 18 and Captain Mackie decided that the presence of a young lady unsettled the men.

Flora struggled to settle into normal society and vowed to return to the Arctic as a scientist and explorer. She ended up marrying a man she didn’t love in order to achieve her ambitions.

Jacob de Beyn grew up in New York. He also fell in love with ice and became a geologist to study glaciers. He joined an Arctic expedition at the earliest opportunity.

From the moment that Flora and Jacob met, they both felt a spark between them. In the early 20th century, it took many years for them to get together.

The parts of the story set in the Arctic were amazing. Expeditions were under pressure to achieve greatness in order to justify their funding. This led to both deception and exploitation of the Eskimos. Life in the Arctic was extremely difficult and many didn’t return.

The story is mostly told by the ageing Flora in 1948 looking back at her past. She is part of a group who will finally reach the North Pole – with the help of modern (for the time) technology.


The story was beautifully told and the characters were excellent. I particularly loved the women defying the norm for their time – Cora, Iris, Clara and others, and of course Flora the Snow Queen.

Jacob, while a less well defined character than Flora, was pretty well done. Lester Armitage, the ogre of the story was very realistic as well and typified the arrogant head of an expedition of the time.

I loved this book and I’m looking forward to reading ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’ as well as any new novels from Stef Penney.


Book Published 2016


See a full list of books by Stef Penney

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