Another one of the Five Hundred Kingdoms books, set in a world where fairy tales are played out time and time again, directed by a mysterious force caAnother one of the Five Hundred Kingdoms books, set in a world where fairy tales are played out time and time again, directed by a mysterious force called "The Tradition". This book focuses on the Snow Queen tale (thus the title) as well as some East of the Sun, West of the Moon and a 'clockwork artificer' story that I didn't get the reference to. Anyways - our main character Aleksia is the Snow Queen, but she's not that bad - she's a Godmother (see book 1 The Fairy Godmother for full understanding, plus Elena makes a cameo). The Snow Queen act is to teach arrogant self-centered young men to value their sweethearts and their sweethearts to stand up to their arrogant young men. All is well until someone begins impersonating The Snow Queen, killing villages and stealing other young men. Aleksia must enter the tale herself to fix the situation.
Why it isn't 5 stars: First, I love this series, because I am a sucker for fairy tale retellings and Lackey does them well. She manages to weave the well-known with the obscure for a full journey. That being said, the characters are always a little flat. Usually that's not a big problem, because they are meant to be very plot-driven, but this one took FOREVER to grab my interest. Once it had my interest, however, I couldn't put it down and stayed up late to finish. Finally, the 'love interest' was little meh. Not a big problem, as the story wasn't centered on their eventual connection, but...meh.
Read this if you like: -Fairy tale retellings - Lackey is superb at this in the 500 Kingdoms series -Strong female characters - this is full of ladies kicking butt - a cameo of Elena, the lonely and not as cold as she seems Aleksia, the awesome old magic woman Annukka and the sweet and unexpectedly brave Kaari. The ladies get it down in this book, with only a minor assist from the fellas. -Plot-driven books - while it takes several chapters to get churning, once it starts, it moves quickly - a visit to the Underworld, some shape-shifting treks across the frozen tundra, fights with ice creatures and witches - lots of action. ...more
Oh, book, I wanted to like you. You had so many elements that I like in a book - young adult dystopian future, feminist themes, and a supposedly stronOh, book, I wanted to like you. You had so many elements that I like in a book - young adult dystopian future, feminist themes, and a supposedly strong female lead. And yet... not so much. Somehow, this book managed to be too slow and too quick. The book started out strong as a "world-building science fiction" title. You know the ones - Frank Herbert's Dune for example - a little slow on plot, but it's for the sake of establishing the world, the culture and the history of the people. Not my favorite style but I respect it. However, after the first major plot point, the world-building felt partially abandoned in favor of some plot - plot that managed to be slow for a time and then choppy and then slow again.
Other great disappointment was our main character Ava. While her growth and change has some interest, she spends most of the book having things (plot points) happen TO her - which for a book that is not a fast-moving plot-driven book, seems very odd and a little disappointing considering that this book is marketed as a pro-feminist tome. She has moments of agency - especially at the very end, but mostly she only reacts to things and lets others dictate her decisions, even well into the final third of the book.
Finally, the ending felt abrupt. Not wrong or rage-inducing - it was good ending given the rest of the story, but just quick and a little too clean.
I almost feel bad ragging on this book - it had some very good moments. The world-building at the beginning was great and I wish it had continued throughout - I would have rather learned about her history and the history of the other space-faring crewes and how her crewe made the decisions they did about their gender roles.
I really felt this book would have been better served as more than one book - thus the world-building could be fleshed out without rushing around the plot.
Finally, whatever promotional materials I read that compared this book to The Handmaid's Tale did not help with expectation management. It's hard to compete with a favorite book - sorry Salvage. ...more