Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Snow Queen's Shadow by Jim C. Hines

The more I read of Jim Hines work, the more I love his writing. If you are a regular reader of this blog, PLEASE do yourself a favor and read his Princess series. You will not regret it!


This is the fourth (and final) installment in the series, and it was good. Really good. Amazing. I was not expecting to laugh out loud, or to cry, and I did both. (Really my eyes just misted up for a moment... I swear.... >.>)

I don't want to tell you too much of the plot, in case you haven't read the previous books. Let me tell you a bit about the characters, instead.

Danielle (Cinderella) is the princess of Lorindar, married to prince Armand. She had a glass sword which never cuts her, the legacy gift of her mother. She knows how to use it. She has a son and the powerful love she has for her family shines through her actions. She is totally the brains of the operation. She still cleans a bit around the palace, out of habit.

Talia (Sleeping Beauty) is gifted with fairy beauty, grace, and charm. And she despises the fairies for it--after all, those gifts lead to the downfall of her family, her 100 years of sleep, and her rape by the prince who "rescued" her. Now she's a fighter, fiercely loyal to her friends, and stubbornly resistant to the use of magic. And she's lost her heart to someone who can't return her love.

Snow (Snow White!) is a powerful sorceress who uses her mirror magic to light their way, see far away places, and more, though the toll of her magic is more than she admits. She is sensual and sexy and sassy, by far the most glib of the three. She has a more serious side, and the effects of her broken heart (her mother killed the one man she really loved) follow her through her more carefree years with Danielle and Talia.

The three of them together form a sort of kick-ass/Charlie's Angels-esque secret agency for Queen Beatrice, and they stop the truly awful magic and political attacks on the Kingdom of Lorindar. Though these books are funny, I would hesitate to call them lighthearted: Hines gives the princesses real stakes, and the consequences for their failures follow them through the series. There is no "and everything went back to normal" at the end of each installation. And because of that, they are more powerful, and will get to you, more than you expect!

As much as I love the cover art (and I do!) I think the covers are a little misleading. You might look at them and think: "Here are some hard-core chicks! All right!" And that's true... but there is a lot of depth to the stories as well, and I'm not sure the covers quite nail just how... good!... these books are.

Unlike perpetual series (which Hines admitted on his blog was his original conception for the Princess novels) which can drag on in a state of limbo, each book in the series gets better. I loved his use in this one, not only of The Snow Queen, but also of Snow White and Rose Red, in a most unexpected manner. The character development and plot were perfect, making the quartet of books one of my all-time favorite fairy tale adaptations. These aren't retellings, per se--most of Hines's books deal with the aftermath of the stories we know. Just what does "Happily Ever After" mean? More trouble, usually--and I think that's part of what makes them more enjoyable that the average retelling.

Please read these! You'll be glad you did, and if you ever have a little girl who is obsessed with Disney Princesses, here are three amazing, charming, and fabulous princesses you can introduce her to, as well.

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