The Snow Queen’s Shadow, by Jim C. Hines, turns the fairy tale protagonists of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White into kick-ass heroines. Each princess draws her strength from a classic element of her original tale. Talia – Sleeping Beauty – is a deadly warrior who uses her fairy blessed reflexes and strength to combat evil and help the innocent. Princess Danielle – Cinderella – summons animals to her aid and wields an enchanted glass sword that inflicts magical damage. And the powerful witch, Snow White, uses her mother’s magic mirror to enhance her already formidable magical abilities.
Though the three main characters are friends throughout the series, Snow White kidnaps Princess Danielle’s 3-year old son and brings him to her former homeland – wreaking havoc and leaving destruction in her wake. By using broken pieces of her mirror as magical weapons, Snow White becomes a virtually invincible foe. Her best friends, Danielle and Talia, must pursue her to rescue the young prince and save the world from Snow’s vengeance. But how can they fight against someone they love – who also knows exactly how they think?
The story focus shifts between the three main protagonists – all formidable women of strong body and mind, giving the reader a glimpse into their personal outlooks and motivations. Danielle’s desperation to save her son came across loud and clear, while Talia’s main motivation was Snow White herself. In addition to the action and drama, a rather unusual love triangle provided tension and strung several of the characters together.
With one or two exceptions, the people in power were almost always female. The women – be they fairy or human – acted shrewd and ruthless, as well as wise and patient. Reading about a matriarchal society was refreshing as well as thoroughly enjoyable.
The novel starts with an action scene and doesn’t let up until the very end, complete with an epic battle of magical creatures against an army of woodland animals. The creations of the evil Snow’s devising are incredibly imaginative and fearsome; and I found myself wondering more than once if a role-playing-game might be in the works – so I could play in the world myself.
My only complaint would be a slight inconsistency towards the end of the book. A character, when asked the name of a dragon guardian, replies that they would never ‘impose’ a name on another creature. Yet the same character had no problem chaining the dragon up to keep as a pet or useful beast of burden. Still, considering the breadth and scope of this mythic world, it’s a minor point.
Though it’s the last book in a series, there are enough references to previous plotlines for the story and characters to stand on their own. However, reading earlier books would certainly provide deeper insights and enrich the overall reading experience.
In the Author’s Note at the end of the book, Hines mentions that he was inspired by his daughter’s Princess phase. If the princesses I grew up with had been as self-reliant and tough as the ones in this series, I might have gone through a Princess phase of my own. The Snow Queen’s Shadow shows a world as rich and tumultuous as any epic tale, and it’s a wonderful conclusion to the series.