Jim C. Hines’ four-book “princess” series comes to a close on July 5 with the release of The Snow Queen’s Shadow, and while I’m sad to see this series end, he’s written a fantastic finisher.
From The Stepsister Scheme through The Mermaid’s Madness and last summer’s Red Hood’s Revenge, Hines – a geeky dad himself who created the series partly to show his kids that princesses don’t have to be all pink icing and plastic sparkles – has constantly toyed with and turned around the worlds and tropes of classic fairy tales.
Hines’ inspiration this time around is Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” – the cool-sounding Sneedronningen in the original Danish – about which I knew absolutely nothing until I looked it up after reading The Snow Queen’s Shadow. Reading the original’s synopsis, it’s easy to see what drew Hines into a semi-retelling of the tale – though if you tend to be a spoiler-avoider like me, I’d suggest not researching the original until after you’ve finished reading Hines’ book.
Hines has succeeded in developing his trio of fairy-tale inspired princesses Talia (Sleeping Beauty), Danielle (Cinderella) and Snow (really?) well beyond their original familiar-but-twisted roots, and they exist more fully independent in this book than ever before. The emotionally-battered but unequaled warrior Talia is at her most raw and powerful, while the reluctantly-royal Danielle sheds her hesitance toward her future role and begins to wield the power that comes with it.
And while The Snow Queen’s Shadow‘s plot is driven by Snow, who falls victim to possession by a vision-distorting and vengeful demon, the story largely belongs to the journey undertaken by the two friends who find themselves among the few people that believe Snow can be saved. Joining them is a newly-introduced character, Gerta.
As a result, of course, this means the “real” Snow doesn’t have much of an actual voice for most of this book – some of her personality comes through in the demon’s words and strategies, but clearly her actions are not her own – and yet she remains very present throughout, reflected in the motivations and emotions of her companions, the legacy of her family and kingdom, and the echoes of her magic. It’s a testament to the depth of Hines’ character creation that it wasn’t until after I’d finished the book that it occurred to me to think about it at all.
Hines not only wraps up this series satisfyingly for the main characters, he manages to click into place several bigger-picture elements which he’s been maneuvering into position over the entire four-book series.
The environments are rich and the action is quick – several times, as has happened before with these books, I had to make myself slow down or go back and re-check something because I’d gotten caught up in the action and missed a key point – and the characters will be missed.
The Snow Queen’s Shadow easily takes the top spot in the series and makes me want to read the other three all over again.
Disclosure: GeekDad was provided an advance copy of the book for this review.