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. :)

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