Monday, December 31, 2012

The Snow Queen Wrap Up

The Snow Queen Wrap Up

So, bear with me for a moment, because I’m going to sneak a fifth review into this wrap-up. I’m sorry, or you’re welcome, whichever you’d prefer. :)

So every once in a while with a fairy tale, there’s one adaptation you encounter that defines that fairy tale in your mind from then on out. Or at least, that’s true for me. For “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” that’s Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. For “The Goose Girl,” it’s Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl. For “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” it’s Edith Pattou’s East. And for “The Snow Queen,” it’s the Hallmark movie from 2002.

This movie was my first exposure to the fairy tale, and though I know I read the original story at some point, it’s always been eclipsed in my memory by this movie and the story that it told. Now, don’t get me wrong – a lot of things about the movie are not great. The acting, for one. And the special effects. And then there’s that ice skating polar bear . . .  But despite all that, I adore this movie. I love it. And not in an ironic way. I love this movie. I watch it every year. And what makes it one of my favorite movies despite the wooden acting and the inconsistent accents and that vaguely racist Asian child is the way it tells this story.

In the movie, Gerda and Kai are teenagers. They have not been friends their whole lives. In fact, they don’t even meet until Kai comes over the mountain to work as a bellhop in Gerda’s father’s inn. And when he does, he finds this girl who is closed off and reserved and doesn’t like winter because, long ago, it took her mother’s life. And it wasn’t just winter. It was the Snow Queen. But Kai brings Gerda out of her shell. He reminds her how to live and have fun again. And so when he disappears, she has to follow him.

And he doesn’t disappear randomly. The Snow Queen doesn’t just happen to take him – she’s searching for the pieces of that shattered mirror. She wants to put it back together and use it to make the world winter always. He takes Kai because he’s the final piece of the mirror.

And Gerda doesn’t just follow him into this world, through her obstacles. She has to traverse the seasons. The old woman in the cottage is the embodiment of spring. The princess she meets is the Summer Princess, and she’s not kind and helpful; she wants to keep Gerda there to prolong summer. The robbers are the voices of autumn, reduced to a robbing troupe because the Snow Queen steals more and more of autumn’s time each year.

And when Gerda finds Kai, she doesn’t just free him and leave. She confronts the Snow Queen. She uses her warmth and fire to melt a little of the Snow Queen’s coldness. She restores balance to the seasons. She plays a larger role.

I love this movie. It is everything I want an adaptation of The Snow Queen to be. And that’s why I’ve snuck this mini review in here. Because it you ask me what the best adaptation of this fairy tale is, it’s not any of the books I read this month.

Because overall, this was a pretty disappointing month. No one really wants to tackle this story, it seems, and those who do (with the exception of Ursu) don’t want to tackle some of the hardest parts of it. There is so much more that I wish the novel’s I’d read this month had done. Two weren’t even full adaptations, just novels using the story as an inspiration. But Winter’s Child was poorly motivated and even Breadcrumbs had a tendency to meander. Hallmark’s movie tied it all together. Hallmark’s movie tightened the story the way it needed to be tightened, despite the fact that it’s three hours long.

So the wrap-up for the month is this: if you want a solid adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, watch the Hallmark movie from 2002, look past the poorly directed actors, and enjoy the ice-skating polar bear.


Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu does come highly recommended. Frost by Wendy Delsol was good, but confusing because it doesn’t stand on its own as an adaptation. A True Princess by Diane Zahler was more Princess and the Pea than Snow Queen, and not terribly well done. And Winter’s Child was just disappointing.

Notable Novels: Check out Wizard of London and The Snow Queen, both by Mercedes Lackey. They almost made the reading list, but her books, though wonderful, are terribly intricate and complex and therefore difficult to summarize. Both worth a read, though.

January’s fairy tale is Snow White!

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

So, I’ve been super bad at posting reviews in December, evidenced by the fact that it’s January. Excuse of choice this week is the holidays and the crazy busy-ness that comes with them. So, apologies in advance for the onslaught of posts that will be made today as I catch up. New Year’s Resolution: Post the rest of these reviews for my last five months on FRIDAYS like I’m SUPPOSED to!

Anyway, on to the book of the week!

Target Audience: 9-12

Summary: Hazel and Jack were friends, once upon a time. The games they played demonstrated rich imaginations and kindred spirits. Then Jack got a sliver of a magic mirror in his eye and his heart grew cold. Soon he was snatched away by an evil woman in a sleigh into a strange magical world where snow and cold abound-a place where his frozen emotions seem perfectly at home. Does Hazel have the heart to risk everything to find her friend and bring him back?

Type of Adaptation: Modernization

I think I’ve found a new favorite middle grade author because Anne Ursu is magnificent – she’s a magnificent storyteller, she knows how to write for kids, and she doesn’t shy away from what is difficult or complicated. For all these things, I applaud her. This was an excellent book to wrap up the month. Here’s why.

Our focal character is Hazel, and while that makes this four out of four books that have neglected to name our heroine after Anderson’s character, but her name is Hazel Anderson, which makes this the second of four books to name our heroine after Anderson himself. So that's . . . something?

Actually, I really like the name Hazel for this character. As John Green said about naming his Hazel, it’s an in-between name, and Hazel Anderson is a very in-between person. She is of Indian descent (that’s Indian Indian, not American Indian, thank you Chris Columbus for centuries of confusion), adopted by white American parents who are now divorced, and she’s at that awkward age where boys and girls suddenly aren’t allowed to be friends. Given that her best friend is a boy, that is a problem.

Also, Hazel is at the awkward age where liking to read and pretend and imagine and daydream is cause for ridicule. It also gets her in trouble at school, as she has trouble focusing and following strict classroom regulations.

Hazel is a kid who just plain doesn’t know who she is, and that is done wonderfully. Her only real friend is Jack (second of four books and second of two modernizations to rename Kai Jack), who is going through turbulent transitions of his own, made more difficult by the fact that his mother suffers from chronic depression and has stopped being a capable mother.

So these are two damaged kids who feel a little less broken with each other, but no one else in their lives seems to understand that. Jack’s male friends are constantly trying to pull him away from Hazel; Hazel’s mom is constantly trying to get her to spend more time with the girls her age. And Hazel’s teachers want her to get her head out of the clouds and pay attention to the real world for once.

I love the way that Ursu has taken these very real hardships of adolescence and made them meaningful. She understands that while adults may look at these issues and dismiss them, to the kids, they are veery real and very difficult. I remember being this age. I remember being Hazel, in many ways, and I appreciate that Ursu made that a real, weighted struggle rather than portraying it as “just” something some “kids” were going through.

Anyway, at the point where we enter the story, Hazel considers being Jack’s friend her job in life. Because Jack needs her. She understands him in a way that his other friends don’t. He needs her. She needs him, too, just as much if not more, but she isn’t cognizant of that.

But then the mirror, made by a demon with a 47-syllable name that we just don’t have the time to hear so we’ll just call him ‘Mal’ (have I mentioned how much I adore Ursu’s narrative voice?), shatters, and the pieces fall down to earth, and one of them hits Jack in the eye, right after he and Hazel have had a fight about who Jack will choose to spend his after school hours with. She throws a snowball at him, hard, and then the piece of glass falls into his eye.

In this day and age, Jack is rushed to the hospital, and Hazel is stricken, convinced that she did this. Jack’s friends don’t help, taunting her and menacing her until she finally snaps and throws a pencil case at one of them.

She’s disciplined, but hardly cares as she waits anxiously to hear anything about Jack, but nothing. Even after it turns out he’s fine, he still won’t talk to her. He pointedly ignores her. She figures he’s mad about the pencil case, so she apologizes, but he still calls her a baby, teases and ridicules her, and treats her as awfully as all the other kids in her class.

Hazel can’t understand it. Her mind wants to believe that some magic is at work, some mystical force causing Jack to be this way, but she knows that doesn’t happen in the real world.

And then Jack disappears. His parents tell Hazel that he’s gone to stay with a sickly aunt, to help care for her, and for some reason, everyone believes this. Everyone except Hazel. And everyone except Tyler, the boy Hazel threw the pencil case at. Because Tyler saw something – he saw Jack disappear with a pale, elfin, white woman into the forest. And because Hazel is the only one who won’t call him crazy, he tells her.

And suddenly, Hazel has direction. For really the first time in the novel, she knows what she wants. She has to get Jack back. Even though he was horrible to her, even though she doesn’t know if there’s any such thing as magic and maybe he just doesn’t want to be her friend anymore, she still has to go and get him.

Start part 2. I love that Hazel follows Jack into the forest, without knowing whether or not she believes this crazy story. Because she wants to believe in magic, but isn’t that impossible? But when she enters the forest, sure enough, she’s in another world. And this is a world powered by desire. Whatever you want, the forest can create for you, but always at a terrible price. The people there are so driven by their desires and their regrets about the prices they’ve paid for those desires that they have become so very twisted and broken in a way that is terrifying. This is not a world like Hogwarts or the ideal Narnia that Hazel was hoping to find.

And yet, Hazel proves strangely immune to the power of the forest, and I love the reasoning why – the forest has the power to grant a person’s greatest desire. But Hazel’s greatest desire to go back to her old life, with Jack, a desire that is entirely out of the power of the forest. But it’s all she wants, and so the forest has no control over her. I adore this.

This also sets up a wonderful parallel between Hazel and the Snow Queen. Everyone in the forest is terrified of the Snow Queen because she literally does not want anything. The people who go to her go out of their own desire, and she accepts them because she can use them, but she doesn’t care if they’re there or not. She doesn’t want them. She doesn’t want anything. And in this world, that makes her incredibly dangerous. I love it.

What I’m not quite as crazy about is how the obstacles are handled. Hazel meets with plenty of obstacles, and there are three main ones, but only one of them crosses over with the story. She accidentally steals the swanskin of a witch and is rescued by a boy whose sister was turned into a bird. She gets taken in by a couple who desperately want a child and almost succeeds at making Hazel forget who she is. And she meets the Little Match Girl in the woods and gives up her key to help so that the girl can find peace and a home.

And while I have no problems with changing the obstacles to fit the world in question, it felt awkward for me to have one the same and two different because I kept feeling like I’d just missed the princess’s palace and the robber girl somehow. Now, the couple who desperately want a child fit into the world really well, but a part of me wishes it had been all the same or none of the same.

That being said, though, I love the inclusion of the Little Match Girl, another of Anderson’s characters, into the mix of this story. I love that Hazel helps her, because she knows how the story ends, and she can’t bare to see it. So she sends the signal to the boy who helped her earlier, gives up her coat, and ensures that the Little Match Girl survives with a family. In exchange, the Match Girl gives Hazel her matches and the piece of the demon’s mirror she picked up. For everyone else, the mirror twists the visions to show the worst of the world. But the match girl has always seen the worst of the world, so to her, the mirror is the one thing in her life that doesn’t lie, and it’s the matches, with visions of hope and happiness in their flames, that are cruel and painful to see. It’s beautiful, and I love it.

I also love how Hazel changes on this journey. She starts out going because she has to rescue Jack because he needs her, and she needs her life to go back to the way it was. But over the journey, that shifts. Now, she’s rescuing Jack because she knows he doesn’t really want this, and he deserves the chance to choose it for himself, in his right mind. And she grows to the place where, if he chooses to stay, to leave her behind, to stop being her friend, she’ll accept it. But it has to be his choice.

Hazel meets the Snow Queen, who tells her that if Jack chooses to leave, he can leave, it makes no difference to her, for there will be others. But he will not choose to leave.

In the end, it’s the matches that save Jack. Hazel tries the mirror, but Jack sees the worst of who he is and retreats from it. But with the matches, Hazel reminds him of who they were, and that even if they can’t be that again, remembering who they were is important because it determines who they will become.

And Jack is freed, and they leave the forest, but they are both irrevocably changed. And the ending is ambiguous, with Jack and Hazel fully aware that their friendship will not be what it once was. But they’ve accepted that, and they’ll do the best they can.

This is a coming of age story, and it’s a marvelous one. Seriously. Well done, Anne Ursu. Checklist.

Reigned the story in? Yes. This book was really well paced and well balanced and well contained, for the most part. Hazel’s journey through the forest got a little cumbersome and unfocused at times, but not too badly. So point.

Explore the relationship between Gerda and Kai? I am thrilled that we have a relationship here so close to what Anderson wrote. I am thrilled that Ursu choose to keep the characters young and not introduce romance in the slightest. I think in many ways, that makes for a more interesting story, and this relationship, with all its flaws and uncertainties, was done incredibly well.

Define the Snow Queen? I like this take on her a lot: a person who doesn’t want anything. Isn’t that the most terrifying villain? If she doesn’t want anything, how can she have a weakness? It’s a fascinating idea, and Ursu presented it very well.

Give meaning to the journey? Yes, yes, and yes. I adore Hazel’s growth. I adore what she goes through and learns and how she changes. Beautifully done.

A winner all around. The only thing I have an concern about is that Hazel's definition of her world relies so heavily on references to current popular children's literature that I don't know how well this book will stand the test of time. But while it does, it is masterful.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A True Princess by Diane Zahler

A True Princess by Diane Zahler

Target Audience: Children, 9-12

Summary: Twelve-year-old Lilia is not a very good servant. In fact, she's terrible! She daydreams, she breaks dishes, and her cooking is awful. Still, she hardly deserves to be sold off to the mean-spirited miller and his family. Refusing to accept that dreadful fate, she decides to flee. With her best friend, Kai, and his sister, Karina, beside her, Lilia heads north to find the family she's never known. But danger awaits. . . .

As their quest leads the threesome through the mysterious and sinister Bitra Forest, they suddenly realize they are lost in the elves' domain. To Lilia's horror, Kai falls under an enchantment cast by the Elf King's beautiful daughter. The only way for Lilia to break the spell and save Kai is to find a jewel of ancient power that lies somewhere in the North Kingdoms. Yet the jewel will not be easy to find. The castle where it is hidden has been overrun with princess hopefuls trying to pass a magical test that will determine the prince's new bride. Lilia has only a few days to search every inch of the castle and find the jewel—or Kai will be lost to her forever.

Type of Adaptation: Retelling drawing inspiration from The Snow Queen, combined with The Princess and the Pea

So, back in August, I read a truly horrendous adaptation of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Remember? It was The Thirteenth Princess, and it incensed me? So here I am, four months later, reading another adaptation by the same author. Why? Because I’m a little bit of a masochist.

Okay, seriously, because all authors have bad books, and I wouldn’t want people to judge Cameron Dokey on Winter’s Child, so I decided to give Zahler the benefit of the doubt. Maybe The Thirteenth Princess was her bad book. Maybe this one would be better.

And to be fair, it was. It was better. But I’m not gonna jump all the way to ‘good.’ Also, unrelated, this is the second of three novels I’ve picked for this month that managed to be an “inspired by” rather than a true adaptation. But let’s start from the top.

So, Lilia is a 12-year-old girl who has been a servant on in this house just about her entire life, yet is somehow still horrendous at housework of all sorts.

Right off the bat, here, I'm a little put off about this, for the following reason: I do not have a natural talent for playing the piano. However, I'm pretty sure that if I had to play the piano every day, for most of each day, for ten years, without fail, I would pick up some skills. There's natural talent and then there's learned talent. And if Lilia had to cook and clean and mend and all that other stuff that being a servant entails every day, for most of each day, for ten years, without fail, I'm pretty sure she'd be able to make porridge without lumps in it by the end. Maybe her first 20 or 30 or even 100 batches of the 3,650 she's made since being a servant would be lumpy, but by the end of an entire decade? Even for the laziest servant, repetition leads to proficiency, and choosing to ignore that fact so you can set up your "surprise she's a super secret princess" plot twist that everybody saw coming from page 2? Rankles a bit.

Oh, and spoilers. She's a super secret princess, which is why she couldn't get the hang of housework, and trust me. We'll be getting to that particular point in a bit.

But yeah, Lilia is a servant who can't do anything right but somehow hasn't been fired, and when we open on her, she's eavesdropping (which, we are told in the chapter title, is something that a "true princess" doesn't do).  Specifically, she's listening in on the woodcutter and his wife who took her in when she was a baby found drifting down the river in a basket, a la Moses. The wife is a sour, angry sort of woman who doesn't like Lilia and wants to get rid of her. If her argument for this was only, "Dude, she's been making porridge for ten years and still can't manage it!" I would totally understand, but no, Ylva is just generally unpleasant and spiteful (later we learn she's his second wife, which immediately clears up that point -- fairy tale stereotypes FTW!)

Anyway, Ylva wants to essentially sell Lilia to the miller in exchange for free flour, and Jorgan is so henpecked that he doesn't argue. And Lilia, having overheard this, decides, in a move I can't fault her for, that she would rather run away to find her true people rather than be sold to someone even worse than Ylva. Lilia knows she's not from around here because she has dark hair and purple eyes, and everyone else has blonde hair.

You know, I read about so many people who have purple eyes. From fantasy and young adult literature, you'd think they were ubiquitous -- but I've never met a single one in real life! Of course, if I did, I would know immediately that this person was super special and Destined For Great Things. Because everyone knows that eye color determines both destiny and personality traits. And only the Super Special-est are purple-eyed.

But yeah, Lilia once heard that people from the north have dark hair, and that's how she knows she's from the north, not because she was found floating down the river and north happens to be upstream, which is how my mind would have come to this conclusion, but never mind.

So she runs away, but she doesn't get very far before being discovered by her foster brother and sister, Kai and Karina, who saw she was missing and decided to take their dog and go find her. And now, they're determined to run away with her.

Lilia (and Cassie): But your father! How will he get along without you?

Kai and Karina: Eh, he'll be fine. He's got Ylva and her new baby, so he'll have another family soon. Also, fewer mouths to feed, amiright?

Lilia: Okay, great! Awesome! Road trip adventure time!

Cassie, and Cassie alone: ... Really? Really, guys? Lilia sneaking away with no warning, I get, she didn't have a choice, and she couldn't exactly let them know where she was going, but you two? This is your father, and you're going to leave in the middle of the night with no note, no explanation, and no regret?

Kai and Karina: Road trip adventure time!

Cassie: So, because he's left at home with a shrewish wife and a newborn baby, he's not going to care about the two of you anymore, just like that? And, yeah, fewer mouths to feed, but what about herding the flock, especially now that you've also stolen his sheepdog?

Kai: Cassie, road trip adventure time!

Cassie: What about . . . whatever it was Karina did?

Karina: Cassie, road trip adventure time!

Cassie: You guys sure you don't want to think about this just a little bit more---


Ahem. Anyway.

So Lilia and Kai and Karina travel, switching between traveling at night and during the day, with seeming ease. We learn in this section that Lilia has never been able to sleep well in a bed or on a cot of any kind (BECAUSE SHE'S A SUPER SECRET PRINCESS, GUYS, SEE THERE ARE CLUES!!!) But apparently, this doesn't apply to THE GROUND, since she sleeps there with no problem -- apparently, this phenomenon is limited to something that can actually be called a bed, and I don't know, guys. It's inconsistent and ill-defined and apparently no one on the editing team ever had an issue with it, so I'm gonna move on.

Lilia and Kai and Karina end up in an inn that they can afford with a few copper coins, and they meet a band of traveling knights who tell them the legend of the Elf King and his daughter, and of Odin's Hunt, and of a kingdom up north with a prince who refuses to marry unless the girl can pass a test proving herself to be a true princess, and wow! All of a sudden, we have an awful lot of stories happening. We've got Goethe's "Elf King" and Anderson's The Snow Queen and The Princess and the Pea, and some Norse mythology thrown in there as well! I got to this point and had to ask how she was going to manage all this in just 180 pages!

And the answer, unfortunately, is not terribly well, and by picked one element to really focus on and then neglecting the others. And the element Zahler chooses is The Princess and the Pea. That's the focus of the story. Oh, The Snow Queen is there, but it takes a decided backseat, as does “The Elf King” and the Norse mythology.

The kids get lost in the enchanted forest because they do exactly what they weren't supposed to do and leave the path, and they end up at the court of the Elf King. Kai takes one look at the Elf King's daughter and is hopelessly enchanted by her beauty, and she decides she wants him to be her new plaything. Lilia and Karina won't let that happen, and so they decide to make a bargain with the Elf King. If they can obtain something his daughter wants more than Kai and bring it to him within two weeks, he'll let Kai and all the other human children in his court go free.

And that's essentially all we get of The Snow Queen -- a boy named Kai being taken in by an ethereal woman, and needing to be rescued by his sister/close friend. The other elements aren't really there, and to be honest, when I picked this book for this month, I was expecting there to be a bit more of the story than that. The summary makes it sound as if we're going to be mainly immersed in The Snow Queen, with the events of Princess and the Pea taking the place of the majority of Gerda's journey -- which I was pretty okay with, but that's not what I got.

What the Elf King's daughter wants more than Kai is Odin's cloak clasp, which just happens to be somewhere in the palace of the prince who is holding the contest to find a true princess for his bride, which also happens to be the kingdom of the band of traveling knights they met earlier in the story. So the two girls journey to this kingdom, where the obtain jobs in the palace, despite the fact that Lilia is a horrible servant, and then we're hit with a whole slew of plot "twists":

-The blue clad gentleman Karina has been pining after is the prince!
-He's in love with Karina!
-Lilia is the kingdom's long-lost princess who was stolen by the Elf King, but then stolen by the prince's falcons who dropped her in the river rather than taking her back to her parents!

None of these "twists" are even a little bit surprising.

And after looking for a priceless, god-made jewel in such likely places as the palace pantry, the linen closets, and random junk drawers (but not the room with the crown jewels, which would be too obvious), Lilia manages to find it hidden in the super secret hiding place that she saw her brother use once more than a decade ago when she was less than two years old.

Anyway, they get the clasp, return it to the Elf King, who tries to weasel out of his deal, but Lilia calls on a Norse god, and all the human children are freed, and Karina marries the prince, and Kai kisses Lilia, and now she's a princess, and then this line is uttered:

"You were a bad servant to Ylva because you were a princess."

Told you we'd be getting back to this point.

Okay. The idea that being royal makes you somehow inherently “other” – literally, physiologically, you are different because you have royal blood? Yeah, I’ve got a problem with that. Because, to me, it feeds into the whole “ruling by divine right” crap of monarchies past. Because Lilia was born to a king and a queen, that makes her incapable of sweeping a broom across a floor? I guess woe betide the princess who has to go into hiding for political reasons or the kingdom that finds itself in financial or wartime crises. Can’t ask the princes and princesses to pitch in a hand, guys! They’re physically incapable of helping you out!

And yeah, I know that idea is inherent in Anderson’s Princess and the Pea, but I have a problem with it there, too, and if I was taking a month to do that story, one of the things I’d been looking for would be offering a better explanation for a girl’s so-called sensitivity.

But, I remind myself, I am not reading Princess and the Pea adaptations this week, so let’s head to the checklist before I get much further off track.

Reigned the story in? Same issues as last month, but honestly, this novel suffers from the same issues as Anderson’s story – there’s too much going on. Zahler has about four different stories trying to happen all at once here, and she hasn’t given herself enough page room to deal with them all sufficiently. So, no.

Explore the relationship between Gerda and Kai? You know, I would have been happy if Zahler had explored the relationship between anyone, really. But she doesn’t. Each and every one of her characters is flat and two-dimensional with very little in the way of depth or definition. Lilia wasn’t as bad as Zita in terms of utter perfection, but they’re still essentially interchangeable. In fact, that’s true for all the main four – you could replace Lilia with Zita, Karina with Aurelia, Tycho with Mikel, and Kai with Breckin, and I don’t think either novel would suffer much for it. Also, Lilia acts way too old to be twelve, and Karina acts way too young and dumb to be 17. No one was well defined. So, no, checklist. No point here. There wasn’t time to explore the relationship; they were separated too soon, and then Lilia essentially forgot about Kai altogether. And while I know Kai and Lilia were supposed to have feelings for each other, there was little to no chemistry, and I wasn’t given a reason to care about ither one of them.

Define the Snow Queen? God, she was irritating! I hated her! She was the Elf King’s daughter in this version, and I spent all of her twenty pages wanting to punch her in the throat to make her shut up. She was defined, I guess, but as little more than a fairy tale stereotype, so I can’t really get behind her.

Give meaning to the journey? No. It was too disjointed with hardly any focus, and it was undertaken very poorly. Zahler tried to do too much with this one, and it showed.

One more week – let’s see if Anne Ursu delivers better than her counterparts this month.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Frost by Wendy Delsol

Frost by Wendy Delsol

Target Audience: Teen

Summary: After the drama of finding out that she's a Stork, a member of an ancient and mystical order of women, and that her boyfriend, Jack, is a descendent of the Winter People able to control the weather, Katla Leblanc is delighted when all signs point to a busy and peaceful Christmas. That is, until the snowstorm Jack summons as a gift to Katla turns into the storm of the century, attracting Brigid, a gorgeous scientist who, in turn, attracts Jack. Between the school play, a bedridden, pregnant mother's to-do lists, and keeping an eye on her aging grandfather, Katla doesn't have time to question Brigid's motives or deal with Jack's increasingly cold behavior. But Katla's suspicions mount when Jack joins Brigid on a research expedition to Greenland, and when the two of them go missing, it becomes clear that Katla is the only one who can save her beloved Jack from the Snow Queen who holds him prisoner. Adventure, romance, and myth combine in this winter escapade for teens who like a bit of fire with their ice.

Type of adaptation: Modernization drawing inspiration from The Snow Queen

So I’ve been struggling a little bit with how exactly to present this particular novel, for a few reasons. The first being that it is the second novel in a trilogy, a fact I didn’t realize until I obtained the book from the library. And the second is that, while it draws very clear inspiration from The Snow Queen, and even has her as a character and echoes many of the events of the fairy tale, I don’t feel like I can technically call this an adaptation, per se.

See, Anderson’s fairy tale exists in this world as a piece of literature. And what Delsol has done in her novel is act as if, rather than being purely fictional, Anderson hit on some truth in his story. The Snow Queen is real, the events of the story actually happened, but the Snow Queen is still going strong, since, after all, Kay and Gerda never defeated her. And so while she does kidnap the male character, and she does control his emotions and actions with the use of an enchanted shard of glass, this novel is less an adaptation of the fairy tale than an echo happening many generations later.

And the fact that this is the second book in a series makes offering my usual synopsis a bit confusing, especially given that I haven’t actually read the first book. But I’ll try to keep it simple and hit the parts that are very definitely Snow Queen. It shouldn’t be terribly difficult; we didn’t hit the part that was mainly Snow Queen until the last 120 pages or so.

So, our main characters are Jack and Katla, and what I gather was established in the first book is that Jack is a descendant of Jack Frost, or The Winter People, and Katla belongs to a society of women called Storks, also known as soul carriers. They met over the events of the first book, whatever they were, and are now a couple, in high school, in Minnesota.

But Jack has a gift fairly rare to The Winter People – he can control the weather. Or he will be able to once he’s trained a bit. But Katla asks for a white Christmas, and when he tries to oblige her by making it snow, he loses control and brings on the worst blizzard that’s been seen in those parts in the history of basically ever.

Katla’s near-step-father is a scientist studying climate change, so of course his team is very interested in figuring out why this happens, and Jack, acting out of guilt because his blizzard was responsible for the death of a young boy, wants to help because he hopes it will lead to him finding a way to control or get rid of his gift.

Instead, though, in comes Brigid, a supposed scientist renowned in meteorology who is also studying the blizzard. Spoilers, though – she’s not. She is, in fact, the Snow Queen, and she has come looking for Jack. She knows something was up with this blizzard, and she’s guessed its source. She’s come for Jack, and everyone is thoroughly enchanted by her – except for Kat.

One night, the necklace that Brigid wears round her neck shatters, and Jack is cut by one of the shards, and after that point, he starts acting very strange. He becomes even more enamored of Brigid, he starts pulling away from Kat, and just generally becomes a cold and unpleasant guy to be around. Kat is hurt and confused by this, even more so when he announces that he’s been chosen to accompany Brigid on a research trip to Greenland.

The same time that he leaves on this trip, Kat leaves with her grandfather to go to Iceland for reasons that have more to do with the trilogy’s overall arc than with The Snow Queen, so I’m ignoring them. But she is there for this Festival of the Selkies, and discovers that her family line is supposedly descended from seal-people.

While in Iceland, Kat receives the news that Jack has gone missing with Brigid. They got caught in a storm in the wilderness of Greenland, and no one has heard from them since. They’ve disappeared. And Kat knows there is more to this than everyone thinks. Earlier that day, at the festival, she ran into a gypsy girl and her mother (representative of the robber girl from the story) who read her runes and predicted something of this nature.

Kat knows she has to follow Jack somehow, and as she leaves to set about doing this, she is picked up by said gypsy girl and taken to the girl’s grandmother, who will be able to send Kat on a necessary vision quest. Through this vision quest, Kat sees the truth of what she suspected – that Brigid has kidnaped Jack, taken him to Niflheim, and is controlling him and his abilities somehow.

Then the vision quest somehow sends Kat to Niflheim as well? It was very strange, and I didn’t entirely understand what was going on at that point, but Kat is given a white reindeer, Poro, and sent to the Snow Queen’s palace with the help of the selkies and a bargain that I’m pretty sure sets up book three of this trilogy.

Once in Niflheim, Kat discovers that Brigid wants to use Jack’s ability to control the weather to create a massive avalanche in Niflheim, which will translate to essentially a new Ice Age down in our world. Kat knows she has to stop Jack and free him, so when trying to remind him who she is doesn’t work, she takes a knife and slices open his hand, releasing the shard of glass that has been controlling him, and that plus the spilling of blood and the pain, bring Jack back to himself, and they are able to close the portal and stop the snowflood from affecting the world below.

And then, Kat wakes up back in Iceland to the news that Jack has been found in Greenland, and they both go back to Minnesota. What happened in Niflheim really did happen, Jack has been restored, and now they have to face the repercussions that will become tangible in the closing book of this trilogy.

So here’s the question? We have a Snow Queen controlling a boy with a shard of glass, and we have a girl going to rescue him. But is that enough? Kat goes on a journey, yes, but she doesn’t face Gerda’s obstacles. The robber girl is slightly represented, but the old woman and the princess aren’t there. And the characters speak of and reference the events of Anderson’s Snow Queen as if they already happened. So my conclusion is that while this book draws definite inspiration from Anderson’s tale, I don’t think it’s really an adaptation.

Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t good – I found this fascinating. The idea of a modernized Snow Queen was, first of all, fascinating to me, and the way that Delsol worked that story’s mythology into Norse mythology, Icelandic mythology, and her own universe’s mythology was incredibly well done, and really makes me wish I had read the first book so that I would understand it a little better. But I love the treatment of the fairy tale here – history instead of fiction, the same villain with the same goal trying yet another way to obtain it. It was well done.

And understand, there's a lot that happens in this novel that I just didn't get into, events that really define Kat in a wonderful way. But they were related to the trilogy arc, not the Snow Queen arc, so I left them out here.

But let’s look at the checklist, as well as we can.

Reigned it in? Can’t make the call. Delsol chose to cut a lot of Gerda’s journey, but for this novel, it makes sense to. But because of that, we can’t make the comparison.

Define the relationship between Kay and Gerda? I think I’d give a stronger check to this if I’d read book one, so a benefit of the doubt check.

Define the Snow Queen? Yes, and I really like what was done with her. Her move to cover the world in winter was a power grab, to be sure, but it was also punishment for the mistreatment of the world that had led to global warming. I like how she fit herself into the modern world, and I like the subtle ways in which she controlled everyone, not just Jack. How Kat alone had a problem with her because Kat was the only one she was working directly against. And fitting her into the mythology was brilliantly done.

Give meaning to the journey? Again, it’s hard to make the call because the nature of the journey changed completely. It had meaning, yes, but it wasn’t Gerda’s journey. It’s this point that keeps me from calling this a true adaptation.

It’s a good book, and it’s worth a read, but to avoid my constant vague confusion, read the first book first. :)

Friday, December 14, 2012


Today's review is postponed until tomorrow because I need to take tonight and spend it with family and friends.

How does this happen? And how can we live in a world where people like this exist, people who would kill a classroom full of innocent children? How can we face a world with people with that much hatred and darkness in their hearts?

God be with them all. To quote one of the wisest shows I know:

"The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Winter's Child by Cameron Dokey

Winter’s Child by Cameron Dokey

Target Audience: YA/Teen

Summary: Free-spirited Grace and serious Kai are the best of friends. They grew up together listening to magical tales spun by Kai’s grandmother, and sharing in each other’s secrets. But when they turn sixteen and Kai declares his love for Grace, everything changes. Grace yearns for freedom and slowly begins to push Kai – and their friendship – away. Dejected, Kai dreams of a dazzling Snow Queen, who entices him to leave home and wander to faraway lands. When Grace discovers Kai is gone, she learns how much she has lost, and sets out on a mystical journey to find Kai . . . and discover herself.

Type of Adaptation: Retelling

Okay, so first off, I need to clarify a couple of things about that summary up above, because seriously, Once Upon a Time series, you need to fire whoever writes these for you. Number one, it’s Grace’s grandmother and not Kai’s who tells the stories. Number two, Kai does not declare his love for Grace so much as demand at her grandmother’s graveside that she marry him. And number three, the Snow Queen does very little enticing; Kai’s pretty much packed when she gets there.

So, yeah. Once again, pretty misleading. And I’ll say with full disclosure that I didn’t go into this week with high hopes – I read this book a few years ago when it came out and I was not impressed. Now, it should be noted that I read it not having read the original, but only having the Hallmark movie to go off of, so what I was really upset about was that Kai and Grace didn’t end up together (spoilers).

However, now that I have read Anderson’s original story and have learned to think about these stories more critically, that didn’t bother me in the slightest this time through. But don’t worry – plenty of new things cropped up to bother me, so let’s just jump right in.

We open with a typical Cameron Dokey opening about some aspect of the nature of storytelling – this one deals with the fact that, at any given moment, thousands of stories are being told all at once, all at once, all overlapping. It’s a neat idea, I guess, but honestly, for the first time with Dokey, I don’t really get the point of it, as this isn’t really an idea she explores over the course of the novel.

So we move on, then, to the legend of the Winter Child. Long ago there was a Queen who loved her husband, but grew to fear the day when her beauty would fade, because she believed that on that day, his love for her would disappear as well. And so, instead of doing the sensible thing and, you know, talking to her husband about this fear, the Queen shut herself up in a tower with her mirror, examining hr face day in and day out for the slightest sign of fading beauty. We all know where this is going, right?

Yeah, she refuses to see her husband for weeks on end, so guess what? He starts to get perturbed with her. And when she is so preoccupied with her looks that she doesn’t notice the North Wind snatching her infant daughter and carrying her out the window. This makes her husband even angrier, understandably. He confronts the Queen, forcing her to see what her short-sightedness has done, and in that moment, her mirror bursts, and she is killed. Shards of the mirror are carried throughout the world on the winds, entering the hearts of certain people and changing them. One shard also pierces the infant’s heart.

The child is forever changed because she was touched by the North Wind – she has now become a Winter Child, which means that, on her 16th birthday, she’ll stop aging until she can right the wrong of her parents, which in this case, means going about and finding all the people with shards of mirror in their hearts and healing them, which she apparently has the power to do for others, but not herself for reasons of plot convenience.

Basically, what this legend does is turn the Winter Child – Deirdre – into a more sympathetic character than she is in the original. Which I have no problem with, understand. The mythology Dokey has created is pretty interesting, even, but my problem with Deirdre is her flatness. She’s not interesting. She’s very bland, and this paragon of princesshood, not to the extent of some other princesses we’ve read this year, but bad enough that it got on my nerves.

And the thing is, she’s got shard of mirror in her heart, but it doesn’t seem to mean anything! It doesn’t affect her personality, it doesn’t make her cold or paranoid or fearful or anything. It doesn’t change her, which is irritating because that’s the whole point of the mirror, right?

Anyway, then the story shifts to Grace and Kai, and a portrayal of their childhoods in which they’ve grown up hearing these stories of the Winter Child from Grace’ grandmother. And jumping perspectives aside (which, believe me, well get to), these characters just didn’t quite work for me. Well, actually, Kai’s character didn’t quite work for me. Grace was fine.

But Kai clashes with himself in a mystifying way: he’s a homebody, always focused on what’s right in front of him, yet he jumps up to follow the Winter Child without a second thought. He’s a watchmaker and very concerned with details and the whys of things and how they work, yet he and not Grace believes that the Winter Child exists with all his heart. He’s grounded and down to earth, and yet, he’s completely unconcerned with everyday logistics. He’s a walking contradiction, and it bugs me because it reads like he’s just very poorly drawn.

But anyway, he and Grace have grown up at each other’s sides – they live next door and they’ve been best friends their whole lives. Grace has never been content with her life – she’s always looking toward the horizon, wanting more. And then, when Kai and Grace are sixteen, a fever sweeps through the town, and Kai’s mother and Grace’s grandmother are among those who die. This means that Kai and Grace are now alone in the world, and on the way home from the funerals, Grace confesses to being scared about the future now, and Kai thinks this would be a great time to say, “Marry me.” It’s not a request, it’s not a question, and there’s no conversation about it. He just says it out of the blue, and then gets all upset with Grace reacts poorly.

This scene really irritates me. Kai says, “Marry me.” Grace, shocked says, “What?” Kai repeats himself, and when Grace is still silent, unable to process this change of events, Kai gets impatient with her, saying that this is the logical next step, she must have figured that out by now, and it’s what their guardians would have wanted. And when Grace comes back with the very reasonable question, “What about what we want?” Kai gets all huffy, and pulls the, “Oh, fine, I guess you don’t love me enough,” card.

Not cool, Kai. Not cool at all. Because first of all, you have yet to make any declaration or reference to love. That was not part of your proposal. So you don’t get to play that card and try to guilt Grace into saying yes.

And what really bothers me is that the way the scene is written, it’s pretty clear that we’re supposed to be on Kai’s side. We’re supposed to think that Grace is being unreasonable and hurtful and pushing Kai away, but you know what? No. I’m very firmly in Grace’s court here. If you and I have never discussed a joint future together, and you know that what you and I want out of life is very different, and in your declaration, you say nothing about being in love with me? Yeah, I’m gonna turn you down flat, I don’t care what kind of history we have together. And that’s not even what Grace did! She just asked for time to process all of this because she thinks Kai is moving a bit too fast here, and you know what? She’s absolutely right!

But Kai is all hurt and wounded and petty about it, and so when the Winter Child shows up at his house that night, he doesn’t even give a second thought to leaving Grace behind to go with Deirdre. And no, just to be clear, in this version, Kai does not have a sliver of mirror in his heart or his eye to excuse, in part, his actions. Neither is he seduced away or tricked into leaving. He’s just a total dick. And before you say that maybe it didn’t occur to him that going with the Winter Child would mean leaving Grace behind, no. She asks him point blank as they travel if he’s sorry he left her behind, and he says no. The girl he supposedly loves with all his heart. The one he proposed to. Not sorry he left in the middle of the night without a goodbye or a note or explanation of any kind. Dick.

And Deirdre! She pisses me off in this scene too, because she happened to overhear Grace and Kai during all this, and she gets filled with this righteous indignation at Grace for daring to push away love when it’s offered, and I’m sorry, bitch. You don’t know Grace, and you don’t know the situation. You heard one conversation out of context. I don’t care if you’re a mythical immortal; you don’t get to judge her.

Sorry. I feel strongly.

Anyway, the next morning, Grace sees that Kai is gone, and immediately figures out that he must have left with the Winter Child. Once he’s gone, she realizes that she does love him, and she can’t let him disappear without mending the quarrel between them, and so, after making the necessary arrangements, she sets out after him.

How does Grace know Kai has gone away with the Winter Child, who before this moment, Grace fully believed to be a fictional character of legend? What, that’s really a question you want to ask? C’mon, the author didn’t! Why should you?

Seriously, we get no explanation. Grace just says that her “heart just knew,” citing as further evidence the fact that she can see Kai’s footprints heading away, and get this, they disappear into the horizon. . . . I'm sorry, don’t all footprints do that? Because the earth is round? If you stand looking at a trail of any kind, isn’t it, by definition, going to go off into the horizon?

Let’s just move on.

The events of Grace’s journey happen out of order, but I understand why Dokey made the change. It flows better for Grace to meet the robbers first, then the old lady with the garden. So, yeah, she’s captured by the robbers, and she makes friends with the robber girl as per the original, and the robber girl helps Grace escape in exchange for Grace helping her escape by giving her the knowledge she needs to start a new life in civilization. Grace also takes away with her a falcon from the robbers’ camp, who decides to follow her rather than stay with his old masters.

As Grace makes her way away from the robbers, she stumbles and falls into a river, and is saved from drowning by an old woman who fishes her out of the river, and cares for her in a small cottage. But, like in the story, the woman wants to keep Grace for her very own and make her forget about everything else.

While Grace is being captured by robbers and kept captive by the old woman, Kai and Deirdre are back up north at Deirdre’s kingdom, and . . . yeah, I really don’t care about this story line. I don’t. I do not find either of these characters to be likeable, and I don’t understand what they’re doing. I don’t understand why Deirdre showed herself to Kai in the first place, since he’s untouched by the mirror and so isn’t one of the hearts that she has to heal. I don’t understand why she offered to take him back to her kingdom and set up as the Queen there after all this time. Has she finished her task? Found all the broken hearts? I don’t get it. And I don’t care. For some reason, Deirdre has to leave with her steward, and they put Kai in charge of the kingdom to give him something to do? Yeah, I don’t know.

Back in Grace’s storyline, she gets free of the old lady with the falcon’s help, and then we just skip over the third obstacle from the original story entirely, and suddenly, Grace is there, at Deirdre’s palace, and Kai meets her at the gate with a “It’s about time you got here,” and I just HATE HIM!

I think my real irritation stems from this – I don’t know why Grace went on this journey. In the original, Kay changed because of the shard of mirror, everyone got fed up with him, then the Queen whisks him away and everyone but Gerda believes him dead. She goes on her quest to prove that he isn’t dead, to figure out what was wrong with him and heal it.

But here? Kai just left. No one questioned it. No one believed him dead. He was juts gone and no one really seemed to care except Grace. And even then, he disappeared, yeah, but she had no reason to believe him in danger. She just wanted to clear the air. Which, okay, yeah, but because Kai was never in danger, there were never any stakes, and so what Grace has gone through seems wildly disproportionate to what Kai has gone through, and so for him to be standing there at the end of it, expecting her with an air of “good! You went on your life-changing quest and got some character growth, just what I’ve been waiting for!” makes me want to punch him in the face.

This time through? I’m glad Kai doesn’t end up with Grace. She deserves a hell of a lot better. Deirdre returns and there are the usual obligatory misunderstandings between the three, and Grace has to force Kai and Deirdre to acknowledge their love, and then all of a sudden, Deirdre’s heart is mended, not because of Kai’s love, but because of Grace’s heart being the match to her own? It’s abrupt and I don’t care, so I didn’t pay that much attention.

And then Grace says that next she’s going to go see the world and travel into the unknown on her own and be happy with that life, and then suddenly, the falcon transforms into a man! Who’s in love with Grace! And she’s . . . in love with him, too? And he was under a spell to be a falcon until someone chose to be with him without understanding what they were choosing, which happened when Grace confessed preferring the unknown . . .?

Yeah, it’s super unnecessary, and a bit upsetting, honestly. Why did Grace need a phoned-in love interest? Why couldn’t she just have gone off to have adventures on her own? Why did we need to fix her up with someone, and under such . . . questionable circumstances?

And then Deirdre uses some leftover Winter Child magic that I’m not sure how she has anymore given that she’s no longer a Winter Child, having fulfilled her task, and grants Grace to ability to ly once a month just ‘cause? And we’re done.

Cameron Dokey, I love you, and usually you hit these out of the park, but this one? Definitely not your finest offering. I disliked this book the second time through even more than I did the first time through, for entirely different reasons. Also, completely unrelated to anything, but if you’re going to so consciously and deliberately echo Anderson’s story structure, you really ought to make sure your story fits into his seven-book arc, though admittedly, that may just be my love of symmetry talking.


Reigned it in? . . . It’s really hard for me to make a call on this. I mean, yes. The novel is much more self-contained than Anderson’s original. While I didn’t particularly like the story that was being told, I do have to acknowledge that at least it was the same story going on consistently. So, okay. A point. But a grudging one.

Explore and define the relationship between Gerda and Kay? I do appreciate that Dokey had the guts to go and make theirs a platonic relationship in the end, and I liked that they both came to that conclusion. I really wish Kai as well as Grace had apologized for his behavior really at all, but that’s a different conversation. I may not like Kai very much, but this was a well-painted and multi-dimensional friendship, even if the same can’t be said for half of its characters.

Define the Snow Queen? . . . Yes? Dokey didn’t want her to be a villain, I get that. But while the legend of how she was created was interesting to me, the character herself was decidedly not. I really disliked Deirdre, and she was flat and colorless (no pun intended) and not done very well. So, half a point.

Give meaning to the journey? There was never any urgency driving the quest. There was never anything at stake. Yeah, Grace grew and changed, and I appreciated that, but that wasn’t really a result of the quest itself. Half point.

Basically, I didn’t like Kai, I didn’t like Deirdre, the ending was abrupt, awkward, painful, and cheesy, the pacing of the whole novel was not well done, there were no stakes, the perspective shifts were jarring, the voices weren’t distinct enough to be easily differentiated, and the message was questionable. Read it if you want, but please don’t judge Dokey on this novel. She’s usually much better.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Snow Queen (According to Cassie)

The Snow Queen (According to Cassie)

Hello again! Enjoy your month off? I know I did. But NaNo is done, my 50,000 words are written, and I am ready to dive back into another fairy tale, so without further ado, let’s look at Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen!

So, basically, there was this demon who had this mirror he’d made that distorted the world when you looked in it. Kinda like a fun-house mirror except for the part where it turned you into a horrible human being. Because looking into the mirror made the bad things seem bigger and more serious and the good things all disappear, and this demon got quite a kick out of watching people look into the mirror.

One day, some of the other demons decided that they wanted the angels of heaven to look into the mirror, just to see what would happen, but it turned out that the power of heaven was too much for the mirror, and as the demons flew up with it, it shattered into a million pieces and rained down on the world below.

This caused problems. Specifically, it caused major problems when a shard of the glass struck a person in the eye, causing him or her to see the world through this distorted view, or even worse, when the glass got into a person’s heart, and turned it cold and useless. And this, sadly, is what happens to Kay.

Who is Kay? Well, he’s a young boy who lives in a small village and is best friends with a girl named Gerda. Kay and Gerda do everything together; they are inseparable. They live next door, they have adventures, they listen to Kay’s grandmother tell stories, and they love to hear the tale of the Snow Queen, a horrible women of ice and cold. And everything is fine and lovely until a piece of this mirror falls into Kay’s eye and through to his heart.

Overnight, he changes. He calls Gerda names and becomes mean and cruel to her and his grandmother and all his other friends. He abandons them to play with the older boys, but one night, a mysterious driver hitches his sled to the back of her automobile and drives away with Kay, who, it should be noted, doesn’t really put up much of a fight to this.

But after some time riding on a sled being pulled by a car, Kay decides this isn’t really something he enjoys (no shit, Sherlock), and so he asks to come up with the driver. She consents, and so he climbs into the car with none other than the Snow Queen. She asks if he is cold, and when he says yes, she kisses him twice, the result being that he quite forgets his grandmother and Gerda and his home and everything except the beautiful Snow Queen beside him.

And the next morning, when Kay is discovered missing, the town turns out to search for him. What they find, however, is a hole in the ice of the river and Kay’s sled half-submerged. The boys tell anyone who will listen that they saw Kay hitch his sled to the back of an automobile the night before for a joyride, and well, they all fill in the rest. Everyone believes that Kay got reckless and died as a result. Gerda, too, believes this, until the sun and the sparrows tell her otherwise. Desperate to get Kay back, Gerda goes down to the river, and offers it her new red shoes if it will just give her Kay back. This, as you might imagine, doesn’t work. So Gerda takes the logical next step – she jumps in the river, hoping it will take her to Kay.

For some reason (magic), Gerda doesn’t drown, but is instead carried down the river until she washes up by the home of an old woman, who fetches her out and dries her off and takes her into the home to take care of her. And by take care of her, I mean that in the most absolute sense of the phrase – Old Woman is looking for a pseudo-daughter, and as she combs Gerda’s hair and sends her off to sleep, she steals away Gerda’s memories, to keep Gerda there forever as her very own.

And this works, for a while. But eventually, Gerda starts to notice that something is up, and the lack of roses in the gardens triggers her memories of Kay. She asks the roses where he can be found, and here Anderson takes us through every frickin’ flower in the damn garden as each one speaks in riddles and poems and nonsense that doesn’t tell Gerda a damn thing, until she gets fed up and leaves the Old Woman’s home, which is . . . surprisingly easy. Seriously. For all the trouble this lady went to keep Gerda there, when Gerda walks out the gate, she’s nowhere to be found. Eh, whatever.

Gerda continues her wandering, trying to track down Kay, and eventually she meets a crow who tells her that Kay has been taken by a princess, though, like the flowers, he goes on for pages and pages before offering any useful information. But he tells Gerda that Kay is the betrothed of this princess, having won her hand in a great contest. Gerda insists on being taken to him, and the crow obliges.

But when Gerda reaches the palace and meets the prince, she discovers that the crow had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, because Kay isn’t there. But the prince and the princess take pity on her, and agree to take her further in their coach, to a new land where she might be able to find Kay.

Unfortunately, as Gerda rides in this coach, it is set upon by robbers, and Gerda is kidnaped by a little robber girl, who basically wants to keep Gerda as a pet, much like the Old Woman from before. Gerda wins the robber girl over, though, with the story of how she is following Kay, trying to get him back, and when the wood-pigeons tell her that they saw Kay going away to Lapland with the Snow Queen, the robber girl gives Gerda a reindeer and sends her off to find her friend.

So Gerda and the reindeer travel north, and along the way, they meet another woman, who tells Gerda that Kay is with the Snow Queen, and more, she tells them where the Snow Queen can be found, and that Kay has got a piece of glass in his heart that makes him want the Snow Queen’s home more than the home he left behind. And she tells Gerda that she has all the tools she needs to defeat the Snow Queen, but that she has to discover what they are for herself. Also, apparently, Gerda has been traveling this whole time without shoes, which seems like a tremendous oversight to me.

Meanwhile, Kay has been in the palace of the Snow Queen, basically existing as her plaything, solving puzzle after puzzle. But there is one he can’t solve. The Queen promises him that once he can, she’ll give him the world and a pair of skates. Personally, it seems to me that the gift of the whole world would include the skates, but whatever.

The Snow Queen leaves, and once she’s gone, Gerda arrives and throws open the doors to the ice palace, and true to Anderson’s form, the Snow Queen’s magical super protective winds turned on Gerda as soon as she enters, are quieted as she prays and angels come down to protect her.

Anyway, the winds taken care of, she runs to Kay, who doesn’t recognize her. She starts to cry, and her warm tears fall on his chest and melt his frozen heart. Then, when he looks at her, she sings their childhood song, and it wakes him up, and his own tears wash out the sliver of glass in his eye, and he’s freed. With the distorting glass out of his eye, he can solve the final puzzle that he couldn’t before, and so he is his own master, and gets the world (and a pair of skates), and Gerda kisses his face and eyes and hands, melting the Snow Queen’s influence wherever it is.

And hand in hand, they head home, meeting in reverse all of Gerda’s friends, and when they finally return home, they realize that they have been gone so long that they’ve grown up, though they remain children at heart.

And . . . the end.

Thoughts on the original:

I’ll be honest, I was remember this story to have a lot more in common with the Hallmark movie adaptation that was my first introduction to it. So seeing that a lot of my favorite elements weren’t actually in Anderson’s original was a bit disappointing. However, I do still think there’s the seed of a good story in here, mainly in the relationship between Gerda and Kay. I love that this is a story where the girl goes and rescues the boy. Other than that, though, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

So what will I look for in an adaptation?

Reign it in! Seriously, this story? It’s kinda all over the place. Everyone that Gerda meets has some story to tell her, and it is very rarely relevant. I would like it if the story could relate back to itself every once in a while, cut what is superfluous, and just generally become tighter and more manageable.

Explore and define the relationship between Gerda and Kay. One of the things that I really do like about this story is that this relationship is really open-ended. It’s described as a very close friendship, but never clearly defined as a romance, which means that there are lots of different ways to take this. You could make Gerda and Kay actually brother and sister, leave them just as close platonic friends, or make them lovers. Their ages are also not firmly set, so there’s some potential there as well. Explore it.

Define the Snow Queen. Here, in the titular character, we have this super scary villain, supposedly, and yet . . . I dunno. I never really knew what her game was. Why did she kidnap Kay? Had she kidnaped others? What was she trying to achieve, exactly? And what was it that made her a villain? Just being winter?

Give meaning to the journey. This is perhaps one of my biggest things – Gerda goes off on this huge quest, but it doesn’t seem to change her at all. What’s the purpose? Why are you including these scenes and these people? How do they challenge or help? Give the quest some impact.

So! That all being said, here’s our lineup! And for the first time this year, the majority of these novels are ones I haven’t read before!

Week 1: Winter's Child by Cameron Dokey
Week 2: Frost by Wendy Delsol
Week 3: A True Princess by Diane Zahler
Week 4: Breadcrumbs by Ann Ursu

Feel free to read along, and I’ll see you on Friday!