I’ve followed Jim C. Hines on Livejournal for quite some time, and I’ve been meaning to pick up his books, so I was tickled pink when he asked me if I’d review The Snow Queen’s Shadow (PRINCESS NOVELS). Please, bear in mind that I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, so there are some questions I will have that may be answered elsewhere, and I will be picking up the earlier books to see if what I perceive as problems are actually problems.
I adore Jim Hines the person. He is a steadfast advocate for rape awareness and other feminist issues, both in and out of the SF/F community. He donates proceeds of his books to charities related to rape victim advocacy. I generally think he’s an awesome guy! And I love the premise of the series of books Snow Queen is part of. I love reimagined fairy tales, and from some of the exposition regarding earlier stories, it seems like he’s done a stellar job of empowering the female heroines of your traditional fairy tales.
The premise is that while performing some ill-advised magic to bring back the soul of a loved one who passed, Snow White sets free the demon her evil mother (not stepmother) had bound to her mirror. In a desperate bid to provide her friends with the key to stop the demon, she splits off a part of herself, an imagined childhood playmate/sister, named Gerta. The possessed Snow, begins aiding the demon in possessing everyone she can, steals Danielle’s (Cinderella) son, and flees for the homeland from which she’d been banished. Danielle and Talia (Sleeping Beauty), along with Gerta set out to rescue the child and Snow, if they can.
The plot is good, suspenseful and well-paced, I never felt that it dragged anywhere along the way. Danielle and Gerta are fairly well drawn characters, although Gerta does “realize” she can do things to save them pretty conveniently throughout most of the book, but you could argue that she wouldn’t have had to think about those things until they were needed, so I can totally give that a pass. The climactic scene is well done, and while you know that the forces of good must triumph (it IS a fairy tale), Mr. Hines still leaves you with enough doubt to invoke relief when they do.
I truly enjoyed the character of Danielle, and you don’t really get enough of the true Snow White in this book to develop a like or dislike for her, but Talia, the character I think I would more normally identify with struck me as a little difficult. She’s the only lesbian (for much of the book), the only one to have been raped as far as I could tell, and hopelessly in love with her straight friend, Snow White. Granted, I have not read her origin story, so I don’t know how those things are handled in her history. However, the “lesbian because she was raped” thing is … just a skidge cliche, as is the “in love with her straight best friend” bit. BUT, I repeat, I have not read Talia’s origin story, so it may well be that I’m totally missing something. I just find those things just a touch cliched.
And yes, I am willing to give Talia another shot by picking up the other stories and seeing how all of those things were handled originally. They didn’t offend me per se, especially since for the most part I enjoyed the book so much, but they still struck a nerve. It is possible that absent me mentioning it, most of you never would have noticed.
Overall, I enjoyed the book a great deal. As I said, it definitely empowers the female characters found in traditional fairy tales. The women are the ones kicking butt and taking names, which suits me fine. I just had those two small problems with it, but honestly, I’m not even sure they’re actually problems if you have the rest of Talia’s story.
I feel I can recommend this story to those of you who enjoy new takes on old favorite fairy tales.