My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Maybe I really was crazy. I’d followed the word of a boy I didn’t know to look for a Tree in the woods to save the life of my boyfriend who had disappeared through a mirror”
Hmm…. where to start with this review.
I wanted to like this book so much but unfortunately it was a little bit of a letdown. I’m a huge big fan of any kind of re telling so I was very excited when I spotted this on NetGalley. I did begin to have some doubts about it when I noticed there were so many negative reviews but I was ever hopeful they were wrong.
The story is a re telling of the Snow Queen, which I have to admit is not a story I know particularly well, and begins with main character Snow in a mental ward where’s she’s been for most of her life after trying to walk through a mirror as a child. She has some anger management issues, which they try to control by giving her a cocktail of drugs she’s named after the seven dwarfs (sleepy, dopey, grumpy, happy etc). She also has a major attachment to one of the other patients, Bale, who she’s been forbidden from seeing after they kissed and he deliberately hurt her.
Frustrated, one night she manages to sneak out of her room to see him but when she gets there something very strange happens, a set of arms appear through a mirror in his room and pull him through. Unable to follow through the mirror she has to find another way to get to the land beyond to try to save the boy she loves.
When she gets there she finds that she is the lost Princess of the realm with a powerful destiny but all she really wants is to rescue her friend. She’s offered help by witches, monsters, robbers and others but who can she trust and who is after something from her.
I think there are the bones of a really good story in this book but frustratingly for a number of reasons it just didn’t quite work. It actually started quite well and I had high hopes that the other reviews would be wrong. The scenes in the mental hospital are probably the best in the book and did draw me in but unfortunately as soon as she made her escape the story somehow lost its way.
For me the main problem, I’m sorry to say, was the writing. The whole thing feels a little too rushed and a bit disjointed. It seems to jump from one scene to the next at breakneck speed and, while I like a lot of action and dialogue in a book, it felt like it needed to stop and take a breath. There wasn’t enough description and world building and definitely not enough character development, criticisms I very rarely make as I’m not a fan of lengthy and flowery descriptions.
Everything seemed to come too easily or be revealed too quickly. There was no struggle and therefore I didn’t feel any of the emotion. Characters immediately revealed their deepest, darkest secrets to each other, magic was instantly available and battles seemed to happen every few pages. There was so much going on and being revealed it was difficult to keep up.
Snow was ok as far as characters go. I did quite like her at the start but eventually found her to be so changeable and flighty that it became a little frustrating. She’s a little selfish and far too ready to give up and be rescued to make a convincing heroine.
The current dragged me down, and I could feel the pressure of the air I was holding in my nose and behind my eyes. I needed to get to the surface. I needed air. I felt myself give up.
The other frustrating thing about this book is the romance. I’m afraid I didn’t buy into the Snow and Bale relationship. Bale is abducted pretty much at the start so we mostly learn about their relationship through flashbacks but I just didn’t feel it and consequently couldn’t understand why she was willing to go to any lengths to rescue him.
This was further confused by the introduction of two further love interests. Yep there’s a love quadrangle. I’d expected this from the other reviews and wasn’t particularly against the idea but again it doesn’t quite work. I think it’s the fact that every single male she meets just so happens to be her age and seems to be in love with her and she’s attracted to them. I know being locked in a mental ward she hasn’t gotten out much but I’m still not convinced you would fall in love with every boy you met and get all confused about your feelings.
Despite these negatives it’s not a bad book. There are some good writing moments and at the start I did find myself highlighting the odd passage here or there that I liked. Some of the other characters are interesting and it would be good to see more of them. With some editing and a slower pace I do think this could be a really good story (it feels like it’s in there somewhere) but it’s not quite working yet. It may be different for younger readers (unfortunately I’m no longer a young adult) who’re looking for a story with plenty of action, romance and some magic so please don’t be put off by my review.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC.