I’ve been mulling on how to review Girls Made of Snow and Glass for a week.
There have been a lot of efforts over the years to revision Snow White. Add dwarves, subtract dwarves. Make Snow White evil. Give Regina The Queen backstory. The Nightmares and Fairytales comic version has the Queen literally steal Snow’s heart, and Snow becomes a monster who comes to steal it back (then she frolics off into the forest with the animals). Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories portrays the Queen as a tragic figure, a princess who was never saved. Manipulated by the Enchantress to do her will, Evly uses her ruthlessness and determination to try to save the love of her life (and screw anyone who gets in her way). She ends up trapped herself, and Snow ends up sharing her stepmother’s story to the other queens, because there’s nothing else that can be done for her, and understanding is all Snow can give to Evly now.
In Girls Made of Snow and Glass, Melissa Bashardoust does what some fairytale revisionists have tried before: focus on the relationship between Snow and The Queen. However, rather than adding a little development of their relationship to an overall love story about being rescued by a prince, Bashardoust sets the love between Snow (Here, Lynet) and The Queen (Mina) center stage. Following in importance are the relationships with their fathers, and Lynet’s relationship with her love interest, Nadia.
This shift makes the story all the more powerful. Bashardoust uses an alternating third-person structure between 15-year-old Lynet and 16-year-old Mina. Normally, I would slap the wrists of any author jumping between time and person from chapter to chapter, but it is always clear who is speaking and when, and when we catch up to the present with Mina, they move back and forth between stepmother and daughter. This structure allows Bashardoust to give us general worldbuilding and Mina’s backstory through direct narration rather than dumping everything on us through reflection or dialogue, and it allows us to connect deeply with both Lynet and Mina.
This connection is very important because Bashardoust does something I don’t often actually see between the Queen and Snow. Too often, there is a nod to the idea that women must compete with one another, that they are rivals, and beyond that, the story falls back into the idea that there can be only one. GMoSaG really interrogates this premise as the story unfolds and develops the connection that formed between Mina and Lynet as mother and daughter, in spite of the distance they were always supposed to have with one another.
It makes the ways they are pitted against each other all the more heartbreaking, and it makes the story infinitely more powerful. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the Queen (evil or otherwise) would have no relationship with Snow at all. That Lynet, who has never met her mother, loves Mina as she would a mother, makes everything following hurt (in that good way that stories hurt).
What I haven’t mentioned so far is the underlying plotline of magic and curses. Mina’s father, called a magician, but more like a black magic alchemist who likes to experiment with bringing things to life. These magical traits blend into Lynet’s search for identity, forever being compared to her dead mother, and the feeling that she will have to become someone else entirely to live up to her. Essentially, she feels that adulthood will mean death for her, either from transforming into her mother or being unable to coexist with Mina. So working out these relationships are a coming of age for Lynet as well as an immediate necessity.
Some reviews have said there isn’t enough romance in the book… I mean there is a failed romance between Mina and King Nicholas, and Mina and (spoiler!), not to mention that Lynet falls in love with the surgeon Nadia. A good part of Mina’s plot is tied into the fact that, thanks to her asshole father, she doesn’t even believe she has the capacity to love, and yet to love and be loved is what she wants more than anything, since this has been denied her as a daughter and as a person her whole life. There is definitely romance, but romantic love isn’t the type of love this book centers on. The heart of this book is parental love, what happens when it is tainted or lacking, and what happens when ultimately the child grows up and the love remains but everything else has to change.
I’ve talked a lot about structure and theme and all of that, but I also have to say that I just really enjoyed reading it. It was an easy read, I was surprised often by where the story went, and I liked the characters (Mina, Lynet, and Nadia, anyway). There are a lot of really gorgeous sentiments in this book, and I was rooting for both Lynet and poor Mina, whose father should get an award in the Magnificent Bastard Hall of Fame.
Fairytales, magic, a lesbian princess. I’m all in. And I can’t wait for the author’s next book, which has been described as a cross between Sleeping Beauty and “Rappaccini’s Daughter.”
Review by Midnight Voss
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