Hello humans! Since winter here in the UK still has a bit of bite left in it, I thought it would be timely to review a wintry read. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a Snow White retelling (is this just the year of retellings on this blog? Maybe!) and describes itself as ‘feminist’ which can either be a really good thing or…well the opposite. I was delighted to win a copy of this in a giveaway from Julia Ember (author of The Seafarer’s Kiss, and The Tiger’s Watch) and I am beyond grateful that I had the chance to read it!
At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.
Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.
Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.
In my ignorance, because I went into this without reading the blurb – as is my norm, I thought this was going to be a story about two siblings, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually more of a mother-step-daughter relationship. In hindsight, I probably could have figured that one out from the source material…ah well. While that is such a key relationship in so many fairy tales I think retellings have a tendency to gloss over it, at least in some form. In Cinder, for example, the evil stepmother is pretty much just a nasty woman. The alternative approach is often making the ‘princess’ character unbearable so it makes sense for the stepmother (if she happens to be the protagonist) to behave in an ‘evil’ way towards her.
By contrast, this was a book about both building a bond between a parent and a child and how simultaneously fragile and strong that bond can be. It’s an angle I haven’t seen explored in a similar retelling/fantasy setting and I appreciated that uniqueness.
That relationship was probably my favourite part of this book, but there were other elements I enjoyed as well. I thought the concept of magic within this book was clever, one character able to control glass, the other snow. I know we’ve all read a lot of books with elemental powers in them, but this felt subtly handled and worked well with the general tone of the book.
I also enjoyed the…is timeline the right word? Since this story is told through both the present and the past it would have been easy to write quite a confusing and convoluted story. Instead, I thought this was used to great effect, revealing just the right amount of backstory as and when needed.
There is also queer romance in this book which (of course) I loved, it’s a tricky one to pin my feelings down. On the one hand, I loved that the romance wasn’t at the core of this story, that there were other relationships and issues being explored, on the other hand, I wanted it to feature more because it was so darned cute. I think it just needed a tiny bit more space to develop and flourish and I would have had that perfect balance.
I heard mixed reviews for this book in the blogosphere and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to read it for myself because I think it’s a lovely book. It’s got it roots right in the fairytale genre and you can feel that permeating through the entire story. All that stopped me giving it five stars was the fact that the ending comes very suddenly and feels quite abrupt. In a story that takes such a long time delicately setting up the dominos fall very speedily.
Should you read this? If you’ve been on the fence I recommend picking it up and having a go, particularly if you’re a fan of redeemed villains and fairytale retellings!
My rating: 4/5 stars
All opinions are my own.
What say you? Did you like this book or is it still on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!