“Cold as snow, sharp as glass.”
Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale.
At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.
Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.
Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story
Rating: 3.5 stars, rounded up to a 4!
We all know how the story ends.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve watched the Disney movie, or read Grimm’s original, albeit darker, story. In all versions, Snow White and her Prince Charming, holding hands, ride off into their sun-kissed happily-ever-after, while the evil queen, angry and aging, suffers a painful death.
Here, however, Bashardoust weaves a beautiful, imaginative retelling of the ages-old fairy tale, this time following both the journeys of the naive princess, Lynet, and the queen, Mina. Neither are villains, merely two young women fighting to find themselves in a world that values them only for their appearance.
“If they love you for anything, it will be for your beauty.”
Mina has only ever wanted to be loved. Even as a child, her magician father’s questionable antics label her as an outcast. She soon discovers the truth behind her miraculous existence, and it breaks her from the inside out. At age sixteen, she moves to court along with her father, using her beauty to claw her way up to power- right next to the king’s side.
“Do you see me now like I’m… a curiosity? Something unnatural or… a copy of my mother?”
Lynet, the striking image of the former queen, is expected to be delicate and docile. She feels no real connection to her birth mother, but cannot seem to escape her memory. However, she idolizes her stepmother, Mina, who embodies all that she aspires to be: fierce, regal, powerful. Mina is the only one who sees her for who she is: a “wolf cub”, curious and headstrong. But like Mina, Lynet uncovers dark secrets about her own identity, and in the space of an instant, her world falls apart, leaving her hopeless and adrift.
There is no dashing prince to be found within this story: only a lost princess and a lonely queen. No handsome young king comes to carry them off into the sunset. These women get everything done on their own.
Both Lynet and Mina’s hopes and desires are largely ignored by others. Both grapple with the roles that have forced upon them. Mina’s manipulative father cares nothing for her and just wants power for himself. The king, on the other hand, is consumed by his love for Lynet, assuming that his precious daughter will grow up to be exactly like his first wife- cherished by all, but without power. (Okay, what is up with all of these terrible parental figures?) I enjoyed how Bashardoust illustrated their struggle, and eventual triumph, against the weight of these expectations.
“The people will want a queen, and the man will want a wife. Her sudden desire was a collision, and it left her shaking. With her beauty, she had made people pay attention to her, to notice her without mocking her. But a queen-
A queen had the power to make people love her.”
In the end, this is also a story about relationships- Mina’s tense alliance with the king; the king’s blinding adoration for his daughter, Lynet; Lynet’s worshipful love of Mina; and so on. It is this connection between Mina and Lynet, however, that truly propels the book forward.
“She held Mina’s hand more tightly, not yet ready to accept that there were still so many secrets hidden away at the center of the flame, too bright for her to see.”
In a way, they share a mother-daughter relationship, but tragedies soon drive them apart, making the reader wonder whether these two women will end up fighting against each other after all. Their bond is tested to the breaking point. By all rights, they SHOULD end up on opposite sides- it’s the classic tale of the “sweet young princess” defeating the “bitter, aging queen”. But as it turns out, this is not that story- at least, not quite.
The budding romance between Lynet and a mysterious surgeon, Nadia, was undoubtedly adorable, but I wanted more– more depth, more chemistry, more slow burn. I felt that Nadia was placed unfairly on the sidelines, and I would have loved to see more of her in the story as a genuine, fleshed-out character rather than just a plot device or love interest.
On that note, I would have also liked to see more world-building in the story. I wanted to learn more about village life, about “Sybil’s Curse”, and about the stark division between the North and the South. Despite the characters’ compelling development, I often felt disconnected to the society that was being described. Don’t come here looking for cutthroat political intrigue; this is much, much more character-driven.
Though Bashardoust’s writing flows, I also had problems with the book’s pacing and SLOWNESS. It was such a beautiful story; I’d expected to finish it in a day or two, but it took me forever. Bashardoust spends much of the book setting up the conflict, without much real action that really pulled me in. This lack of suspense, combined with a few unnecessarily dragged-out plot points, made some parts of the book go by like trickling molasses.
Most importantly, however, Bashardoust explores what it means to be human. What makes us different from all the other animals of the world? What dictates the sort of person that we become? What does it mean to love, and be loved? Girls Made of Snow and Glass markets itself as “feminist fantasy”, and Bashardoust definitely pulls through.
With all the darker retellings out there, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a feel-good fairy tale. Though it’s definitely on the slower side, Bashardoust’s twist on Snow White is so lovely and so creative!
I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.