Thursday, August 24, 2017

ARC Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Title: Girls Made of Snow and Glass
Author: Melissa Bashardoust
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 384
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Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale.

At sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story. 

I have very rarely met a retelling I didn't like. Girls Made of Snow and Glass immediately caught my eye when I heard that it was a Snow White retelling. I love that fairytale (even if I don't love the film from the 30's) and I'm always looking for a unique take on it! I'm fairly confident that the Frozen comparison wasn't on the original synopsis I read, but I love that one too so I was excited to dig in!

There are two MCs in this story - Mira and Lynet. It was a little jarring to read this book from both their perspectives. Mira's POV began during her childhood and each time she had a chapter it came closer to merging with the present. Lynet's chapters began in the present and stayed there. While this style did end up working okay, it was hard to get used to at first.

Lynet is approaching her sixteenth birthday when this book begins. She has always been physically compared to her mother and is forever expected to become her, both in demeanor and occupation. As her birthday approaches she learns that her father is about to give her control of the southern territories, a responsibility she really doesn't want. Not only will this assignment force her into a role she's never wanted for herself - it also has the potential to ruin her relationship with her stepmother, Mina.

Mina has spent her life grappling for power in an attempt to make people love her after a lifetime of being told she cannot be loved. Her rise to power is a very interesting and heartbreaking one and made me feel more strongly for Mina than Lynet in the end. I've read other reviews that claim this book doesn't pit the stepmother against the stepdaughter because of looks, but that really isn't true - Mina definitely spends a fair amount of time worrying that Lynet is more beautiful and will be more loved because of it. Although this is the case, Mina doesn't fall into every Snow White trope. This story definitely diverges enough to be very unique among retellings.

I want to take a minute to discuss the romance in this book. If you're interested in Girls Made of Snow and Glass, you're probably aware that it's marketed as F/F Romance. There are two romances in this book and the main one is not between Lynet and Nadia - it's between Mina and her male love interest. Without getting into spoiler territory, the romance between Lynet and Nadia might be the absolute slowest burn I have ever seen and nothing romantic happens until near the end. Let me tell you friends, if you go into this looking for a swoon-worthy lesbian love story, you might be disappointed.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass truly has an incredibly concept to work with. I love the Snow White and Evil Queen characters being so close before things go south. I love the feminist angle of both women working towards what they want instead of what's expected. And I love the idea of Snow White falling for a woman instead of Prince Charming! Unfortunately, this story was just a little bland. It was extremely (ex-treme-ly) slow and even the big, exciting moments kind of meandered across the page. There was no real sense of urgency or danger, even when lives were on the line!

While I did enjoy parts of the world building in this book (mostly Whitespring Castle and its snowy surroundings), it did ultimately leave me wanting more. Characters in this book seem to have Fast Travel skills and we learn next to nothing about Lynet's journey or the South other than people wear different clothes. Something else I really liked was the magical elements, although they weren't very logical, but I won't dig into that here. It was fun and I can totally see why the Frozen comparison is there now.

I really wanted and fully expected to love Girls Made of Snow and Glass! I think there are great ideas here and some parts of the story were great, but this turned out to be just an okay read for me. The characters were fine, the world was fine - everything about this book was just fine. If you love retellings and don't mind books that are on the slower side, you may very well enjoy this one!