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The Snow Queen

(The Snow Queen Cycle #1)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  11,310 ratings  ·  435 reviews
isbn 0708880754
The imperious Winter colonists have ruled the planet Tiamat for 150 years, deriving wealth from the slaughter of the sea mers. But soon the galactic stargate will close, isolating Tiamat, and the 150-year reign of the Summer primitives will begin. Their only chance at surviving the change is if Arienrhod, the ageless, corrupt Snow Queen, can destroy destiny
Paperback, 536 pages
Published 1981 by Macdonald Future Publishers (first published April 1980)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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This is higher end political space opera that borrows a number of themes and central plot components from Frank Herbert’s Dune, while creatively retelling the Han’s Christian Anderson story for which it’s named. I found much to like here. Vinge has quality prose skills and does a excellent job with both world-building and layering in a well thought out political structure. She has also peopled her narrative with strong, determined, intelligent central characters, all of whom are women. A nice c ...more
mark monday
somewhere along the way this turned from Awesome I want to know more! to Ugh when is this going to be over? insipid characterization ended up trumping the amazing world and universe being built. review to come I guess.

(view spoiler)
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always found the Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Snow Queen oddly disturbing, that business with mirror splinters in the eye creeped me out as a kid. This Hugo award winning book by Joan D. Vinge (Mrs. Vernor Vinge no less), takes the original tale and turns it up to 11. I find that female science fiction authors are frequently better at character development and are better prose stylists than their male counterparts, cases in point (off the top of my head) would be Ursula K. Le Guin, ...more
OK, I am going to describe a scene to you, and I want you to then tell me which famous science-fiction property it comes from. Ready?

So, this is the climax of the middle part of the story. The hero finally meets up with the primary antagonist. They go head-to-head in a duel on a narrow bridge over a vast abyss. Midway through, our hero learns a stunning piece of news regarding a parental figure, and is then tempted to join the villain in an evil scheme to rule the galaxy.

Ha ha, yeah, I did make
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: NPR list of science fiction & fantasy
This book is a modern re-telling of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale. Moon and Sparks are equivalent to Anderson’s Gerda and Kai, who grow up together and are devoted to each other. In the original tale, Kai is infected with a tiny piece of an evil troll mirror, which causes him to see only the bad and ugly in people. In Vinge’s version, Sparks gets left behind when Moon is chosen away to become a sibyl and he flounces off to the city of the Snow Queen to try his luck at becoming someone o ...more

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became
Mar 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Good:
This is science fiction painted with fairy tale themes. The setting is very cool and full of good ideas, the details well conveyed through the various point-of-view characters.

The Bad:
The story is slow and the characters are all slightly wooden. The ending gets a bit Days of Our Lives.

'Friends' character the protagonist is most like:
Moon is very New Age but also heroic. She is also the spitting image of another character in the story, which makes her most like Phoebe.
4.5 stars. The sheer imagination involved in this story is absolutely amazing! I think I was about five minutes into it when I started frantically searching for the rest of the series. The fascinating thing about it is that the world itself seemed very much like a fantasy world but this is most definitely a sci-fi story. It's not subtle about the space travel and other planets and FTLT stuff. But it was this blend of sci-fi and fantasy that made the story a bit of genius. More than a bit.

I'm goi
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book when I was somewhere from 15-17. This is not the book that the teen me remembers. I am positive the teen me focused on the sex(there is really not that much) and the love story between Moon and Sparks. The adult me has some major issues with the love story between Moon and Sparks. As a matter of fact, as we get to the "climax" of the book, I might have said out loud at work in the break room, 'You have to be fucking kidding me' and gagged. Even the inner teen agreed with m ...more
This book has been on my shelves for decades. I am glad that I finally got around to reading it. This book was a strange mix of fascinating ideas and the banality of florid language. It really is an odd mix. I found the writing to be good and the characters were interesting and many of the concepts such as the "sibyls" and the Black Gate, and the construct of the Hegemony and the political intrigue to be fascinating and yet for me the sum of the parts were far larger than the book as a whole. It ...more
I love this book. It dark and romantic and sad. I love the juxtaposition of Summer and Winter, innocent and corrupt. It's been years since I read it and I think I need to re-read it.

Re-read August 3-12, 2018

I still loved this. The world building is wonderful, although I did find the second half of the novel more compelling than the first half. I found Moon and Sparks to be so very young. The last time I read this I wasn’t to much older than they were in this novel. Now I am old indeed, probably
Dawn C
DNF at 34% I used to finish any book I started, because I felt otherwise the time spend on it was wasted, but even though I’ve spent 6 hours listening to this, I knew the next 13 could be better spent. I honestly wanted to give it a chance but the things that annoyed me kept annoying me, and then more things were added that also annoyed me, so yeah, time to move on.
Lavinia Călina
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved it!
Full review here (romanian version) :
The Snow Queen is part of a long-time project to read some of the books that have been in my physical library for decades. I bought this one used when I was in high school, I think.

Was it worth the wait? Let's see...


Tiamat is a planet in transition. Its approach closer to a black gate in space means that it will be cut off from the galactic Hegemony who has been in residence there for decades trading with Tiamat's queen for the "water of life," the blood of mers--a seal-like form of sea life--t
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lily by: Nenia Campbell
There's more to me, more to the universe, than I suspected. Room for all the dreams I ever had, and all the nightmares... heroes in the gutters and in the mirror; saints in frozen wasteland; fools and liars on the throne of wisdom, and hands reaching out in hunger that will never be filled... Anything becomes possible, after you find the courage to admit that nothing is certain.

The Snow Queen is about change crashing against the bulwarks of stability. It's about a heart freezing over and struggl
Kirsten #EndGunViolence
Wow! What an incredible read! I am so glad I requested it via interlibrary loan.

One small problem.... in my copy, pages 375-406 were missing and replaced with pages 311-342, AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Whew. Glad to get that out of my system. Now, on to the book....

This book was epic. The world-building, the characters, the political intrigue... I just loved everything about it. If this had been written these days, it would've been optioned for film or TV! I just fell into this book and became
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kat  Hooper
May 03, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.

The Snow Queen, published in 1980, is Joan Vinge’s science fiction adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name. In Vinge’s version, Anderson’s love story takes place on the planet Tiamat which is located near a black hole. Tiamat is a convenient rest stop for interstellar travelers and they often go down to the planet for respite or trade, but Tiamat also has its own special commodity: the Water of Life. This youth-preserving substa
Aug 12, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: SciFi & Fantasy Group 2011-07 Science Fiction Selection
Meh. Within the first two or three dozen pages I was very strongly tempted to put this down and walk away. NPR had just released their listener-selected list of the best 100 of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and there's lots there I haven't read yet. Vinge's The Snow Queen isn't on the list.

What dragged me down at the very beginning was the overly lyrical style, unoriginal plot set-up and banal characters of her young protagonists. But I glanced at some Goodreads reviews, realized it had won the H
My thoughts on this book are quite tangled.

On one hand I loved the sci-fi elements of this book. A world which is periodically reduced to a "primitive" state, controlled by the Hegemony for the purpose of harvesting it's most precious resource.

On the other is the drama surrounding the Winter Queen, her Summer clone and their joint love.

Honestly I would have enjoyed the book with far less of the latter and more of the former. The dramatical parts of the book really dragged for me. The whole rede
Heather *Awkward Queen and Unicorn Twin*
Hmm, I'm not really sure what to think of this book. I feel like I could have liked it, but it was just too much, and at the same time not enough. It was long, but the events and scenes passed quickly, told from several perspectives. There was tons of information, a lot of it seemingly pointless, and yet I still felt lost and like I didn't know the characters well. Nor did I particularly care about them. I also didn't like the world this was set in.

Overall, it was too much work to read this with
190119 from ??? 80s: i would really like to believe love conquers all. at least it does in books like this. so i once read books like this... and if it works for her, it works for me...

010716 this is a much much later note: just read the fairy tale again, looking for parallels, finding aspects that might be common in most such heroines: immediate emotional rapport with furry critters, talking crows, royalty, etc. in this book there is more or less the same thing, in her native psychic sensitivit
This highly recommended science fiction classic is an evenly paced epic, populated with complex characters and taking place in a plethora of interesting environs. It is a study in themes, from the more straightforward themes of love and beauty, to the more involved notions of change, integrity, corruption, forgiveness, and what it means to be connected to someone. Although Joan D. Vinge used Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen as inspiration for this tale, the plot is packed with sci-fi goo ...more
I came across this book when looking for fairy tale retelling books. I recently have gotten into this genre and I did not know about this one. I really enjoyed it, but it was a little confusing in the beginning but I got things straightened out by a third of the book. Lots going on and a page turner for sure!
Chance Lee
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-grownups, sci-fi
The Snow Queen is both a story of intimate relationships between people living in a tumultuous society and a sci-fi epic with robots, aliens, spaceships, black holes, and a lot of names so ridiculous the author has included a pronunciation guide in the front of the book.

I loved it.

The novel takes place on the planet Tiamat, a world which, due to its strange orbit around a black hole and two suns, goes through some Game of Thrones-esque long seasons of winter and summer, 150 years each. This boo
Dec 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-read
Probably 3.5 Stars.

Reading this classic science fiction novel more than 35 years after it came out reveals that it still has the power to affect the reader.

As some have mentioned the language is definitely flowery and the pace is slow. It is probably 3 or 4 chapters too long.

But that said, there's something compelling about the plot, which is intriguingly complex but simply banal at the same time. There are two star-crossed lovers: Moon and Sparks, who grow up as cousins and pledge to share thei
Viv JM
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I thought the world building was fascinating and fantastic, plus there was an array of interesting minor characters. On the other hand, I really struggled to relate at all to the main protagonists. The cousins seemed brattish and petulant (especially Sparks) and the Snow Queen was just a bit too pantomime-villain for me.

So, while I quite enjoyed this book, it wasn't enough to make me want to seek out the rest of the series.
Maggie K
I really had a hard time with this one.
I was excited to read it, I generally love a new take on an old folktale, but geeeeeeeeesh some of these characters!
World building-great
magic system-great
characters? omg I was annoyed by everyone! ugh

I made myself finish, and Im glad I did, but I dont want to see these people anymore. Part of the problem was also a lot of exposition....
This Science Fantasy novel follows the plot line of Andersen's fairy tale The Snow Queen, with main characters Moon as Gerda, Sparks as Kai, and Arienrhod as the eponymous protagonist. All of those characters stay a bit flat, I wasn't able to really connect to them. Characters' names sound a bit silly first, but they fit their "Summer" savage cultural background and contrast "Winters'" and otherworlders' names.
Beside Andersen's story, the novel steers toward one very important recurring point of
I really loved the world of Tiamat and the Hegemony. BZ, Jerusha and Arienrhod were all really interesting characters. I loved how space travel facilitated time jumps in the story. And the sibyls were really cool. But... Moon and Sparks were super annoying. Moon was a special cinnamon bun who couldn't help but have everyone and everything fall in love with her. Sparks was an emo-kid with a seriously masochistic guilt-complex. He's a broken man who just needs love to fix him... I think he actuall ...more
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Sci-Fi & Fantasy ...: November 2016 - The Snow Queen 3 21 Nov 09, 2016 05:34PM  

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Joan D. Vinge (born Joan Carol Dennison) is an American science fiction author. She is known for such works as her Hugo Award-winning novel The Snow Queen and its sequels, her series about the telepath named Cat, and her Heaven's Chronicles books.

Other books in the series

The Snow Queen Cycle (4 books)
  • World's End (The Snow Queen Cycle, #2)
  • The Summer Queen (The Snow Queen Cycle, #3)
  • Tangled Up in Blue (The Snow Queen Cycle, #4)
“But what force in the galaxy is stronger than she is?"

"Indifference." Jerusha surprised herself with the answer. "Indifference, Gundhalinu, is the strongest force in the universe. It makes everything it touches meaningless. Love and hate don't stand a chance against it. It lets neglect and decay and monstrous injustice go unchecked. It doesn't act, it allows. And that's what gives it so much power.”
“Real power is control. Knowing that you can do anything...and not doing it only because you can.” 35 likes
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