When I first read the title of this book, I was expecting stories or facts that are related to angels, which I understand only comes up later in the book. Only by reading the wonderfully written opening chapter, I was already convinced that this book is not that simple. In fact, I have found out from a book review that this book that it is "a living fossil: a serious, enjoyable, multi-layered novel of ideas". .
Jill Paton-Walsh starts her chapter by introducing the Nevados, ice shepherds working in austere condition and cold weather. She creates the image and atmosphere of the mountains very clearly for the reader. She sets a gloomy atmosphere, surrounded with a "scarf of cloud", far away from civilization, an atmosphere which created uneasiness. The vegetation of lichens and tiny plants on the mountains are described as "scrubby". She also writes the "tiny plants shrinking"; a clever use of personification indicating the weather is so cold that even plants don't like to grow in such harsh conditions. The phrase "skeletal branches" emphasize the fact that all trees had bare branches because the weather was too cold. Paton-Walsh painted a bare, scrubby atmosphere, which makes a good setting for the drama that will follow.
As the reader proceeds, Jill Paton-Walsh brings in a new element in the chapter. First, she sets the scene once again, by writing "the snow had engulfed their workplace", which once again describes that the Nevados will have to struggle against the elements, including the "biting cold" weather. In addition, the word "engulf" creates discomfort. In contrast, we see the Nevados warming up as they dance and sing on the treading platform when they begin to work. We read about the copper brazier and the animal warmth helped "soften the bitter cold" and "happiness to animal and man alike". While the Nevados are dancing happily, an interruption occurs. Something mysterious is brought into the scene, when they hear a cry of a young man.