Girls Made of Snow and Glass was everything I have ever loved or dreamed of in a fairytale (retelling) and more. Just when you think that it couldn’t get any better, more precious, or moving, Bashardoust surprises you. To say I loved this book is a drastic understatement. To say I am looking forward to the next one, is even more of an understatement. I’m waiting here, with my calendar open, waiting for the announcement so I can pencil it in.
Mina’s father is an infamous and deeply feared magician, who pays her little to no attention. Announcing his decision to move them both to the court is the exact opposite of what Mina wants. No more warmth, only coldness and a court life surrounded by those who are prejudiced against her. However, Mina finds out more than she ever wanted to know on this day: the day her father tells her that her heart is one of glass, one without a heartbeat. Upon arriving at the court, Mina resolves to be loved and to win the heart of the grieving king. But winning the heart of the king also means becoming friends and stepmother to his daughter, Lynet – a perfect replica of her dead mother.
Forever being defined in the confines of her mother’s shadow, Lynet wants to be free to be herself. Taking comfort in her stepmother Mina’s compassion, Lynet begins to wonder about what a life of her own might look like. But before her desires can get away from her, she finds out a terrible truth: that the same magician who replaced Mina’s heart created her out of snow with his blood to be the perfect image of the dead queen. Unable to move on from his dead wife, the king deposes Mina and replaces Lynet as the ruler of the South and pits the two against each other – each the only family they truly have.
What results is a battle as old as the classic fairytale of Snow White, because only one woman can be queen. Will it be the woman made of glass or snow and can they figure out a happy ending for them both?
That is abnormally long, when compare to the usual summaries I write for books, but it is all the information I had going into the story myself. Based on that synopsis, I knew I would love this. Described as Angela Carter meets Frozen this book delivers on that promise and so much more. The world is detailed, as if we’ve stepped through a looking glass into their world: the North’s freezing cold and bitter eternal winter and the warmth and vivacity of the South.
Mina and Lynet
Mina and Lynet are everything and more. Lynet is endearing on so many levels. She is compassionate, brave, and intelligent. Her spirit is admirable and her romance story line is truly precious. Her history, being trapped by her own mother’s shadow, makes Lynet compelling, because I think, in a way, we all feel trapped by our history when growing up. For Lynet, this challenge is even more disturbing. What do we do when we are forced into the grave by our parents? Lynet is the fairy tale heroine I have been searching for and only now seeing within our society. Mina is even more special to me, because too often are ‘stepmothers’ in fairytales given a stereotypical and ‘villainized’ role. However, Bashardoust takes everything we thought we knew about the fairytale stepmother and complicates it. Making us question every other stepmother.
By telling Mina’s past, while events unfold in the present, gives Mina’s character more personality and depth. She is complex, intelligent, and vulnerable. Painfully universal is Mina’s desire to be loved. We are able to see exactly what made Mina this way, who told her she was incapable of love, and exactly how fiercely she craves its warmth. It reminded me of all the times we are told that we can only receive the love we think we deserve. But is that correct? How do we see the love within ourselves? Additionally, we catch glimpses of Lynet’s early childhood, her spirit, and the way that these two women connect to each other – bound by a desire to follow their own paths in the shadows of their male creators.
Thematically, I was enthralled by so many narrative choices. Having studied fairytales in university, I am aware of their power and tropes. Bashardoust’s manipulation of these conventions is superb, elevating this tale from one of a beautiful and touching story, to a tale that actively redefines the definitions it works against. True Carter-like work here. Among my favorites was the fact that both Mina and Lynet are created by the same man. (This plot thread alone is absolutely poignant as something that not only connects them, but also mirrors their journeys). This evoked images of male created ‘monsters’ such as Frankenstein and made me wonder about the power of the female spirit for creation. Bashardoust takes up this challenge as well. There is also a beautiful intertextuality within the story that picks up threads from other fairytales, for example the reference to the Juniper Tree.
But what truly charmed my heart was the interaction between the character and the plot – the way that Bashardoust builds upon the framework of the original story and gives it a vibrant life of its own. Even more so, Bashardoust gives us a fairytale for the 21st century, modern and complex. There are so many beautiful elements and touches within the story whether it be a side character’s plot, or a twist of phrase. Embracing all the power only a fairytale holds, we are invited to question the narratives of the past, to imagine a new future in which the success of women can be rid of its competitiveness, where women can make their own destinies, and where they can heal their own hearts.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
Favorite fairytale retelling?
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