Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Happy ever after... is a choice."

The Snow Queen's ShadowSo the thing is, Fantasy Matters is a PG-13 site. And, really, I know a great many words. Quintessence. Sinople. Petrichor. Shenanigan. Lollygag. So one might think I could be more genteel in my assessment. But if I could, I would give you a three word review of The Snow Queen's Shadow by Jim C. Hines that would read something like this: So. Frakking. Good.

Endings, you see, are hard. They are hard to write in short stories, when you only have a couple of thousands of words of things to deal with. They are harder to write in novels, where you have tens of thousands of words of plot, and character, and theme that you must tie up at the end. I have never tried to end a series before, but I imagine that the pressure on the writer must be something like having to stick the vault in the Olympics. When you're the final competitor. Hines not only manages to wrap up this series (The Stepsister Scheme, The Mermaid's Madness, and Red Hood's Revengeare the prior books) in a manner that is satisfying, but in a manner that is right - one that does justice to these women and their stories.

Reviewing this book is a little difficult for me in terms of specifics, because I don't want to give spoilers. Spoilers, for my purposes, are anything that I wouldn't want to know going in, and the thing that I wouldn't want to know going in happens on p. 17. It is a fairly major thing.

But what I will say is not only is this book a great ending to the series, I think it is also Hines' best work so far. The stakes are high from the beginning, and the consequences are serious. With the exception of one set piece I thought went a bit too long, the pace is fast, and the story tightly written. And the characters, Danielle, Talia, and Snow, the three princesses we've come to know over the course of the books, plus Gerta, who is new to this volume, truly develop as people.

It's the fact that the princesses are people (and not just plot devices with breasts) that I have always found to be the most attractive part of this series, and the reason why, even though I have never seen them marketed or shelved as YA, I want to give them to teenage girls. On the surface, there was so much potential for this series to be cliché: fairy tale princesses become kick ass heroines! Girl power ftw! But these books are about more than that. They are about the dark and complicated parts of the fairy tales, the places where magic can be as much of a burden as a blessing, where being a princess is the beginning and not the end. These princesses are women who have learned the hard way that not only is happy ever after a choice, but that one has to be brave, and smart, and strong enough to earn that choice. Read the first three, and then read The Snow Queen's Shadow. I think you'll agree that not only is the ending earned, the landing was well and truly stuck.

(NB: For purposes of FCC disclosure, I received an ARC of this book for review purposes.)