The Snow Queen's Shadow

~by Jim C. Hines

The Snow Queen's Shadow is the fourth and, at least for the moment, final volume in Jim C. Hines' series of Princess novels. In the books Hines takes classic fairy tales (and by classic I mean the darker original stories, not the nicer "cleaned up" versions that most people are probably familiar with) and adds his own twists to them to create something unique. His heroines: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella (Snow, Talia, and Danielle, respectively). No longer damsels in distress waiting for their princes to save them, these women are much more in control of their lives. I have been thoroughly enjoying the series and was looking forward to the release of The Snow Queen's Shadow, which was published in 2011 by DAW Books. The previous volume, Red Hood's Revenge, focused on Talia, my favorite character. As might be expected form the title, The Snow Queen's Shadow turns its attention to Snow, who happens to be my second-favorite lead.

After one of Snow's spells goes horribly wrong, a demon is released into the world. Her mirrors, which allow her to focus her powers, are left shattered and destroyed. Under the demon's influence, Snow flees to her homeland of Allesandria to wreak havoc on those responsible for her exile. Wherever she goes, more and more people fall under the demon's power. It reveals to them the world as it truly is--full of manipulation, selfishness, and hatred. Only Danielle and Talia have a chance of saving their friend and thereby the rest of the world. As the demon becomes more powerful, their task becomes more difficult. They will need help from humans and fairies alike, but that help will come at a very high cost. And even then there is no guarantee that they will be successful. But no matter what, they have to at least try to avoid the impending tragedy.

Although the characters' histories are solidly based in traditional fairy tales, Hines has created complex characters that are very much their own people. Even the secondary players have strong, memorable characterizations. In The Snow Queen's Shadow Hines successfully melds the story of "The Snow Queen" with the story of "Snow White." Readers who are already familiar with "The Snow Queen" will be better able to fully appreciate what Hines has done, but even those who aren't will be able to enjoy The Snow Queen's Shadow. I appreciate how Hines has combined so many different fairy tales to create his own world. I particularly enjoy how human interactions with magic and fairykind are culturally dependent and change from kingdom to kingdom. Instead of a single, homogeneous fantasy foundation, Hines has incorporated several different perspectives. He considers how these differences impact interpersonal as well as inter-kingdom relationships. It makes for a much more interesting and compelling story as well as world that feels completely developed.

The Snow Queen's Shadow isn't my favorite book in the Princess series, that honor probably goes to The Mermaid's Madness, but I did enjoy it. As with many of Hines' books, it took me a chapter or two to really settle into the story, but once I did I was entirely engaged until its conclusion. The books have been getting progressively darker in tone and The Snow Queen's Shadow is the darkest of them all. Fortunately, there are still some moments of levity. Although it was important and necessary for the story, I missed seeing Snow's more lighthearted nature; only glimpses of it are to be found in The Snow Queen's Shadow. Out of all of the Princess novels, The Snow Queen's Shadow is the one that relies most heavily on the books that precede it. Granted, this is to be somewhat expected since it is the final book in the series. The Snow Queen's Shadow tells its own story, but it also serves as a way to tie the entire series together. I am sad to see the series come to an end--I have enjoyed the books and their characters immensely--but The Snow Queen's Shadow is a satisfying farewell.

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