Hello everyone, and welcome back!
I’ve finally managed to circle back around to some new reads (not that I didn’t enjoy my re-read of His Dark Materials thoroughly), and it’s back to fairy tale retellings, it would seem! Only one of these things is not like the others, so let’s talk about that.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
(I like the cover, but this title is way too clunky.)
Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a kind of Snow White/The Snow Queen (Frozen) fairy tale mash-up about a not-so-evil stepmother (Mina) with a glass heart and her snowy stepdaughter (Lynet). There’s also a huntsman, an evil sorcerer, a cursed kingdom, and a touch of queer romance.
On the face of it, I like this book. Though the women in it are pitted against each other, they don’t want to be. In their own ways, they want to be close to one another, even though on the face of it, they’re in competition to be the queen. Our princess has a female love interest. Most of the twists and turns here exist to make women the central agents of their own stories, and the weird, petty vanity that comes with the original Snow White tale is overturned here.
The concept, if you sum up the plot of this retelling in a few sentences? Great. The execution? Ehhh.
The book relies on the relationships between characters to provide motivation and emotional beats in the story, but those relationships fall fairly flat since they’re told and not shown. Mina has a cruel and neglectful father, but mostly we know that from her inner monologue rather than their interactions, which are few. Lynet adores Mina, but we mostly know that from her inner monologue because we only get a glimpse into a couple of fleeting private moments of closeness. Mina cares for Lynet more than she cares to admit, but…well, you get the picture.
We get a really good sense of these characters’ motivations, since they, well, tell us constantly within their internal monologue—but what brought them to that point is relatively obscured. Lynet tells us about her father being overprotective of her and acts out about how trapped she is, so we know that it’s his way of acting with her that motivates her recklessness—but we don’t get a lot of interaction with her father (or anyone enforcing his rules) to really feel that trapped sense with Lynet.
This kind of tell-don’t-show thing is pervasive in the novel and really weakens it. It’s also perhaps notable that this story setting isn’t particularly vivid. We get a reasonably good sense of the castle’s layout, but not a lot of what makes its beauty unique. We briefly hear about the hardship of the people living in a perpetual winter, but we see very little what that looks like. There are many nobles living in the castle, but only one of them ever seems to be significant.
So…as much as this was a neat, dare I say it fairly feminist take on the two fairy tales it takes up, the concept is far better than the execution, in this case. I do hope I can give it another shot with this author one day, since really I can get behind the premise here, but this was a pretty average read for me, all things considered. I never felt like I had to just put it down or that it was too slow or boring, but I have the feeling it won’t be one that sticks with me beyond some of the unique retold aspects.
The search for the perfect fairy tale retelling continues. Do you have any favourites? Any suggestions of one I should try next? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!