In a Sweden wracked by war and haunted by folk stories so dark they can only be spoken of in whispers, Helvig has been raised by her brigand father to steal whatever treasure catches her eye. When her men ambush a strange girl on the road with hair pale as death and a crow perched on her shoulder, Helvig cannot resist bringing home a truly unique prize: a genuine witch.
Drawn irresistibly into the other woman’s web, Helvig soon learns of Gerda’s reason for walking the icy border roads alone: to find the Queen who lives at the top of the world and kill her. Anyone else would be smart enough not to believe a children’s story, but Helvig is plagued by enchantments of her own, and struggles to guard the sins of her past while growing closer to the other woman.
As Christmastide gives way to the thin-veiled days when ghosts are at their most vengeful, the two women will find themselves on a journey through forest and Samiland to a final confrontation that will either redeem them or destroy them entirely. It's Deathless meets Of Fire and Stars in this coming-of-age fable!
I really liked this short little story. Not only did the overall magic and scenery pull me in very quickly, but the names were unique and not some I have read a lot which made me very excited.
The enemy of the snow queen was a really good mystery and the overall hunt and journey was mixed with some amazing romance with the question of sexuality.
I really liked the aspect of the folklores in this story, especially since I have always been obsessed with them. The sexuality aspect was my favourite. the asking the resisting and then finally allowing yourself to love who you want.
Robbergirl by S. T. Gibson was a well-written re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Set in Sweden around Christmas time it has plenty of atmosphere and heaps of snow and ice. Get on a bone-chilling adventure with thieving princess Helvig who risks everything when she brings a stray witch home to the robbers camp. The witch Gerda is not planning to stay as she is on a quest to save her brother from the evil Snow Queen’s clutches.
It was a very entertaining read with beautiful winter scenes, folklore, ghosts and a colorful cast of well-drawn characters.
f/f young adult, no explicit scenes
Themes: a Swedish winter, a den of thieves, a witch on a quest, young love.
Helvig, the teenage daughter of a Swedish robber king, haunts the frozen winter roads hoping a rich merchant will fall into her grasp. Instead, she captures someone more intriguing: a beautiful young woman traveling alone who claims to be a witch. Helvig brings her back to the robber hideout and begs her father to be allowed to host her for a while. Gerda, the witch, seems driven by an urgent, foolish, and dangerous errand- she wants to keep traveling North in the dead of winter in search of a brother who went missing years ago. Helvig convinces her to stay with the robbers until she's regained some strength. And so the two begin a winter of uneasy cohabitation, building a friendship and sharing a bed at night, but both keeping back secrets of their pasts and fears. A delightful, Sapphic retelling of "The Snow Queen" fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson as a young adult novel. This is a story I heard several times in my childhood, so I was familiar with all of the elements and it was a real pleasure to see how they had been reworked and transformed. Beginning the story with the meeting of Gerda and the Robber's daughter (an event that takes place in the middle of the original story) was a smart choice, and the amount of deeply queer yearning woven through kept me on the edge of my seat.
TW: animal death, blood, injury detail, kidnapping, violence, child death (brief mention), drug use (nonconsensual), abusive relationship (past, recounted), forced marriage (offscreen, past, minor character), sexual content between minors (fade to black), homophobia (minor, offscreen), the D slur is also used in its actual meaning
The writing? brilliant! The atmosphere? delicious! The retelling? *chef's kiss*. The romance? GOD TIER.
I also think I found my new favorite trope. I'm embarrassed it took me this long to pick up an S.T. Gibson work so thank you to my dear friend Sadie for gifting this to me.
it gets lonely sometimes, so naturally the princess of thieves kidnaps an alleged witch to keep her company throughout the Swedish winter <3 slowburn romance with tons of incredible sapphic yearning and a plot to kill the snow queen? this is it!!
This was great for specific reasons, or maybe just one: girls and women are amazing and that’s that on that. actually, no, it’s not, i wanna add that women can truly do anything in this world we set our eyes on because we’re the best people around here. secondly, girls in love are exceptional and that’s also that on that. let them spend night cuddling next to a fire or under their furs at nights and let them fight ice zombies and save children!! and let them love each other because there is nothing more beautiful or powerful in the universe. truly, i’m a woman dying of thirst in the desert and the smallest drop of "girls in love saving the world" water is my salvation, so i really never needed to read this book to love it, but i did read it, and i did love it! anyway, helvig and gerda are incredible (of course, as i’ve already mentioned, but it won’t hurt to be said again, women are extraordinary. whether they’re fictional or not, accomplishing big things or not, their courage and strength and really their everything is unparalleled in this world. i’ll add to this that surviving even one day on this miserable planet is the biggest accomplishment i can think of, so i really i raise my glass to all women, we’re all extraordinary! thanks!) and i love them and they love each other and they made me emo. what is this book about? read to find out, i have other things to talk about! but every book should be like this, good day to all, and don’t forget to tell a woman you love her today
A quite lovely fairy tale and coming of age YA story. It features a Robber Princess and maybe witch, a tame crow and reindeer, and some bad exes and an evil Ice Queen. All in all it’s a story of what we would do for love.
Raised in a den of thieves, Helvig has grown up strong and assertive, unafraid to take any prize that she desires. When she and her men try to rob a pale, strange girl on the road, Helvig is immediately drawn to her, not quite sure what exactly is it she finds so captivating. Her men suspect the girl, Gerda, of being a witch, and Helvig uses their assumption to bag herself a treasure like no other to take back home to her father, the Robber King. As Gerda and Helvig slowly befriend one another back at the Robber King's camp, Helvig learns that she's on a mission that, initially, she laughs off as a silly story. Gerda is travelling to Samiland, hoping to find the Snow Queen there, who she says stole her little brother years ago. But as Christmas draws nearer and the veil between the living and the dead grows thinner, Helvig begins to wonder if there might be some truth in Gerda's tale, and has to ask herself: to what lengths will she go for this girl who is slowly enchanting her?
When A Dowry of Blood came out, S.T. Gibson became quite the hot topic, and ever since then, I've been meaning to pick up one of her books. I decided to ease in with this rather short story based off Hans Christian Andersen's original fairytale. Gibson intrigues from the very first page, introducing us both to the brash, hotheaded Helvig and to her opposite, the cool, composed Gerda, immediately thrusting us into the middle of the story. Her beautiful prose, neither too overdone nor too dry, goes so perfectly with the relating of a fairytale that it seems almost too good to be true.
Our heroines are both interesting, girls who come from separate backgrounds but find a connection between them that sparks something they both try, at turns, to hide from and to bring into the light. Helvig is particularly lovable, a combination of ill-manners and a longing to be accepted that will make your heart ache. Gerda is lovely, just distant enough to make you wonder what it is that she's keeping to herself, and it's obvious why they feel drawn to one another. Gibson expands a little on the feeling of loneliness particular to girls who are without female companionship of any kind, and she does a fantastic job of making you understand why Helvig and Gerda become so quickly attached without cheapening the depth of their relationship whatsoever.
I was worried that because this story is on the short side, clocking in at only around 200 pages, there would perhaps be a dearth of character development, or the plot might suffer. Miraculously, Gibson achieves what few are able, and despite the brief length, Gerda and Helvig (as well as the side characters) all emerge as three-dimensional, rounded-out people. I also liked that Gibson does pause the action of Gerda's mission for a little, allowing us time to fall in love with our protagonists, but it resumes without us ever getting to the point of boredom.
It's truly the relationship between Gerda and Helvig that creates the centerpiece of this story. It's so beautifully written, with such real, deep feeling, that by the end of the tale, I found myself close to tears. This doesn't happen all that often, and I typically read books that are on the more emotional, darker side of things, so I suppose the reaction it got from me says something! The familial relationships are also expertly done, and speaking with frankness, there's really nothing about this gorgeous tale that I would change.
Highly recommended, especially for those of you who love fairytales and will appreciate the little details that Gibson includes to reference the original!
Unfortunately, I spent the majority of my time listening to this book while very sick with a stomach bug, and absolutely exhausted. So, there is definitely some things that I missed. I don’t know that my rating or feelings about it would have changed toooo much if that hadn’t been the case.
What I liked the most about this was the atmosphere. The winter setting, the feeling of it all felt very visceral and fairy tale like in a way that was great. The characters were good and the retelling of the snow queen had a lot of good elements to it. I enjoyed watching Helvig and Gerda fall for each other and overall I had a perfectly fine time.
So, I’m a sucker for a good retelling, but this concept didn’t steal my heart and hold my attention like A Dowry of Blood. Yes, the voice/ dialogue is charming in this (but it’s paced slower than I hoped).
I feel like reading Gibson’s evolving/growing talent is enjoyable. I like her unique POV’s. I’m excited to see what she’s brewing up next.
These were the longest 200 pages I’ve ever read. I had high expectations of this book because it’s a sapphic snow queen retelling, written by the same person who wrote a dowry of blood. THE SAME PERSON WHO WROTE A DOWRY OF BLOOD. THAT BOOK IS MY BIBLE FR. But it was just… bland. The story begins with a group of thieves, haunting the road in the search of travelers, and when they find a random girl who proclaims to be a witch, they kidnap her and for some reason the protagonist expects her to become her friend and eventually fall in love with her. And they do. They fall in love. Yes. WHAT? Stockholm syndrome my favorite romance trope🤩🙏
So that’s the whole plot. There’s no characters or plot development nor deeper motives for them to act, just random stuff and weird relationships. It gets more interesting by ending, when they FINALLY go in search of the snow queen, but it was a really bland ending and battle.
IT HAD POTENTIAL. Maybe if the protagonist had kidnapped the “witch” because of an actual reason, like needing her for a heist or something, and if the said witch considered her her enemy, just waiting for a moment to escape and continue her way to the snow queen, it would have been better. If she had tried to flee or fight when they took her, and not just randomly stayed there, waiting for them to act.
So the reason why they’re still together is because the protagonist offered the witch a bargain: if she helped them with the heist, she and her thieves would help her to get to wherever she wanted to, and even if they don’t trust each other, they fall in love throughout the way. And so the heist is somehow related to the snow queen, so there’s no waste of time with random scenes.
(maybe it would have been a better start if the book started with the protagonist at the thieves camp, telling her father, the “Robber King”, about a failed rob —which is the third in that week— and he tells her they won’t survive the winter without souvenirs/money or smth, because an enemy group of thieves if gettin more powerful or something, and we get introduced to her reasons of WHY does she needs to kidnap the witch, to have a successful heist, because there was someone who hired them to steal something, Snow queen related, and it’s their last chance to regain power. So when the witch finds out, she betrays them all and takes it, because it would help her to find or kill the snow queen, and the protagonist goes after her, saying she’s gonna kill her and take the thing back, but actually because she loves her).
Having a shared pov, also, and making the relationship between the protagonist and her thieves (who should have their own reasons to act) a deeper one, would make this better.
Look, this plot I just made out of nowhere is 1000 times better than the actual thing.
Gorgeously written before a wintery backdrop, we follow the story of Gerda and Helvig and their journey to kill the fabled Snow Queen.
Helvig, the self-proclaimed Princess of the mongrel dogs and God-forsaken bastards, means to rob Gerda on the side of the road until she realizes that Gerda is a witch so she takes Gerda instead.
The two girls are drawn to each other with such tenderness and earnestness throughout this cold story of grief, loss, and revenge. At it’s core, this short standalone is a strong story of love and family that I absolutely fell in love with.
CW: kidnapping, sexual harassment (brief), internalized homophobia, death, grief, references to past toxic + abusive romantic relationship
3 stars. Way too short and the story doesn’t pick up until the last twenty or so pages so everything else was a lot of dialogue and no movement of the plot. The writing was really good though and very atmospheric. Also, the characters of Helvig and Gerda were likable and I liked the blossoming romance between them. Overall, this was fine. A sapphic retelling of Snow Queen but it left a lot to be desired.
I'll admit I had trepidations about this one after not liking A Dowry of Blood, but this was a pleasant surprise for me! Helvig and Gerda were very very sweet and I'm always soft for characters who are absolutely devoted for each other. I also loved the way Helvig's father and her friends are portrayed! I do feel like this book could have been maybe fifty pages shorter, though? Most of this book is very relationship-focused, which is not a bad thing, but I would have personally preferred more of a even balance between the relationship-building and the actual plot. I still enjoyed the story, though!
This book is so underrated it HURTS my soul. It is so good and such a gem. I have read a lot of retellings in my time and this is definitely one of the best I have ever read. It manages to be so true to the original and at the same time being its own thing.
It roughly follows the exact same plot like the Snow Queen tale except there being a few changes and overall differences between the characters. I loved how the author intertwined a lot of the original tale in a different and interesting way.
The dynamic between the two MCs Gerda and Helvig is so unique. It has enemies to lovers vibes, but also not quite. They are both very interesting characters on their own. Helvig goes through an entire character arc. I still cannot comprehend how complex she and her personality is. There were moments I found her a bit annoying or selfish while the arc is unfolding, but everything gets an explanation and a reason and Helvig learns and grows so much. I could write an entire essay about her and her character development that is BETTER done in a 200 pages than in some YA trilogies.
The romance is PEAK. I want whatever Gerda and Helvig have and not settle for less.
"Winter is always hungry, child, and all it knows how to do is take."
A fairy tale retelling is usually a tempting treat for me, but this one wasted too much time in a will-they-or-won't-they? cheesy romance. AND, the big dilemma at the end was too easily resolved, especially after such a long build up.