“Worlds collide and hearts melt in this first novel in an icily glamorous and epic new series.”
I don’t even know where to start with this one. Honestly, it was a bit of a mess. The beautiful cover is what drew me to this book, minimalistic and shiny, but as soon as I read the blurb on the back I was hesitant. I knew this book had the potential to be either amazing or absolutely awful.
What I was expecting (or rather hoping for) was a modern adaption of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen mixed with the haunting tone and unreliable narrator of the Mara Dyer series. What I got was the most butchered fairytale retelling I’ve ever read, with hints of Snow White, The Snow Queen and even Alice Through The Looking Glass. Honestly, I don’t even think Paige knew what she was going for here.
I found the world unbelievable, the plot both ridiculous and fast paced, the female protagonist extremely irritating, and the plot twist at the end ludicrous. The writing was fine, though there wasn’t a uniqueness of writing style, which did make it a tad boring. The dialogue was stilted and awkward, it didn’t feel natural or authentic to speech, and the voices of the characters were all very similar.
The novel was also riffled with problematic aspects, such as the trivialisation of mental health and misrepresentation of a psychiatric hospital; a potentially abusive relationship, with the female protagonist internalising the blame for mistreatment; and male characters who feel entitled to a girls affection and persist even after being rejected, and then of course the girl falling for it, mistaking manipulation for romance.
But despite the fact that I spent most of the time with my eyes rolled back into my head, laughing with disbelief; by the end of the novel I was looking for a sequel, burning with the curiosity of where this train wreck was headed. I must be a masochist.
(Continue reading for a more in depth review, but beware spoilers.) Trigger Warning: Mental Illness.
The beginning of this story had one of the biggest plot holes I have ever seen. The whole foundation to this story is that Snow (our female protagonist), at five, was deemed unstable and made to live in a psychiatric hospital for the next 12 years. Except the big mental break she supposedly had that resulted in this, is after having been read the story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, she convinced her friend to walk through a mirror with her, leaving them both with deep cuts. And so, this, something that any imaginative and impressionable child might do, is enough to have a five year old girl institutionalised for the rest of her life? Her only other reference to her alleged mental issues is an “icy anger”. I’m pretty sure that anger issues, which would probably stem from the fact that she’s been locked up in a psychiatric hospital for twelve years when she does not suffer a mental illness, aren’t enough for you to be justifiably institutionalised. What kind of doctors are these people? This trivialisation of mental illness displayed in Stealing Snow is problematic and harmful. The fact that she kept calling it an insane asylum, an extremely dated term, was also an issue. Moreover, there is no way it would have been that easy to get out of a psychiatric hospital, especially seeing as a patient had just escaped. You’d think the place would be in lockdown, and so there is no way Snow could have just run outside without being detected by security.
The middle of the book just consisted of Snow trying to figure out her magic while falling for two boys who aren’t Bale, joining a band of magical thieves, known as the Robbers, and deciding to face the king after about a week of knowing she’s magic. The best part of this novel was for me the section with the thieves, I found it the most interesting, even though Snow still annoyed me, and Jagger’s persistence in winning her affections was frustrating, and Snow falling for it even worse.
It was the end of the book that was the most ridiculous part of this story. A non-magical identical twin sister that no one knew about and was abandoned, and Snow the prophesied saviour (where have I heard that before?) taken by her mother to be raised like a pig to the slaughter. Apparently, in order to stop Snow fulfilling the prophecy, her mother runs from Algid, puts Snow in a psychiatric hospital, all so she’ll grow up, ready to be killed at the “right time”. Right time? If there is some kind of prophecy telling you that your daughter might destroy your husband, why would you wait for her to grow up before you kill her? Why would you run away from your psycho husband, institutionalise the child, and then let her get away, learn about the prophecy, and attempt to master her magical abilities if you just wanted to kill her to protect said psychopathic husband? If she’d just killed Snow as an infant, or raised Snow normally, Snow would have never challenged her father. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy. It was the stupidest thing I had ever read, and obviously just a way to fill the plot hole of why they didn’t just kill Snow, without actually filling the plot hole.
Personally, I think a book from Temperly’s (the aforementioned twin sister) perspective would have made for a much more interesting story. A lost daughter to the evil king, living in disguise in his own court, working to build a rebellion. Bad. Arse.
Seeing as the illusion of the story had already been broken with the illogical foundation of the plot, the world already felt false and unrealistic before Snow had even entered the magical realm of Algid. And this sensation did not dissipate as we ventured into the very original eternal winter cast over a forest filled with evil snow monsters (Frozen??? Is that you???).
Besides wondering where Algid existed, another plane? another dimension? an alternate universe? the building of this world was so badly done, that I wasn’t even interested in it, and instead of questioning anything I just rolled with the punches.
Snow was extremely unlikable, naive and fickle. I always get annoyed at those characters who are resistant to change and say things like “I don’t want to be a hero, I just want to be a normal girl.” Why can’t we have more characters who embrace their differences, who crave adventure, who are active female protagonists? The fact that she thought staying in Algid was worse than going back to live in the psychiatric hospital drove me up the wall. She kept talking about saving Bale and going back home together to start a future. What kind of future does she think they can have, in what she calls a “prision”? And her mindset about Bale, that it didn’t matter that he had hurt her for no particular reason is extremely problematic, especially because she blamed herself: “Since the kiss, I was still searching for whatever it was about me that had spooked Bale” (p.7). This is a dangerous mindset that shouldn’t be encouraged in a book for impressionable teenagers, and had me wishing I could climb into the pages and shake her.
The three male characters annoyed me in different ways. Bale I did not care about one jot, and it didn’t really seem that Snow did either seeing as she fell in love with two other boys despite her declaration that Bale is her “soulmate”. Sigh. (Also, Bale is Temperly’s lost love. I’m calling it right now.) Kai was your typical angry, dismissive teenage boy that girls can’t help but find attractive, and Jagger was your mischievous bad boy, but also irritatingly persistent suitor.
The Robbers were the representation of stereotypical feminine rivalry, though this did ease off towards the end of the novel. Gerde was cute, and I would have liked more of her, rather than just casting her to the side. Perhaps she’ll return in the sequel. Temperly is the female protagonist we deserved, and I hope she plays a bigger role in the rest of the series.
Snow’s voice was both irritating and bland at the same time, and somehow she managed to have a one track mind, driven to save Bale, while also falling in love with every boy she meets. And in no way did her voice come across as “crazy”. I honestly think that this novel would have been served much better if Snow was an unreliable narrator, if both we and she couldn’t tell the difference between dream and waking, if we couldn’t tell if her trip into Algid was real or imagined (in the first chapter Snow mentions a problem with this, but we never see it). This was the Mara Dyer element I had hoped for. Hodkin does a stunning job of traversing this in her series, having us constantly question everything that happens throughout the story. Mara’s voice held a lot more confusion, denial, and mystery, keeping the reader on the edge of their seats as she narrated her story. This would have made Stealing Snow a much more interesting and diverse novel, changing the tone to a darker, edgier fairy tale adaptation rather than Disney’s frozen with no sisterly affection and more boys (something less progressive than a Disney movie, who knew?) Also, by giving Snow this unreliability, it would have solved the plot hole of the reason she was institutionalised, as it would seem to a world without magic that a girl who sees an alternate universe in a mirror is “crazy”.
So, simply put, I found everything about this novel to be bland, hollow and stereotypical. Due to this I probably won’t be continuing with this alleged “icily glamorous and epic new series”.
Disclaimer: This review is in no way written in malice or intending to offend, it is purely my opinion, and if it differs from yours that does not mean that your own opinion or enjoyment is invalid.