I have liked every Jim C. Hines book I’ve ever read, and that holds true for The Snow Queen’s Shadow. But I didn’t LIKE like this book. In fact, I think I’m in a fight with it. We definitely weren’t speaking for a while, and I got kind of pouty and shouty with it. Pouty shouty, if you will.
The thing about this book, which is the fourth and last in Hines’ Princess quartet, is that it’s a smart, well-written ending to the series. It successfully wraps up character arcs and themes set in place all the way back in the first book. It has nice dialogue and is exciting and terribly stressful to read. It continues the trend of taking fairy-tale stories and reshaping them to give their characters agency. It made me cry.
All of that is true. It is also true that while I can see all of that up there, it doesn’t mean I am happy about the way it turned out, or that the ending presented here made me feel emotionally satisfied. I don’t think it did. I can’t say any more than that without spoiling some things, so . . .
So in this book the queen finally succumbs to her long infirmity, and by trying to save her life in some fashion, Snow accidentally shatters her mother’s old magic mirror and lets loose a terrible demon on the world who possesses her and starts wreaking emotional and physical terror on the world. Before totally giving in to the demon’s control, Snow manages to leave a piece of herself behind in the form of a magically created “sister” named Gerta who shares many of Snow’s memories, mostly because she is the product of Snow’s imagination. Snow had imagined having a sister all through her childhood, and in a moment of desperation, used the spell she’d been preparing for the dying queen to embody those memories in a living person. Gerta then goes with Snow and Talia to find Snow (and the prince, who she’s kidnapped) and bring them home. It’s this whole thing with Snow going home to Alessandria and killing a SHIT TON of people, and turning everything to ice, and using ice hornets to possess more people and use them as her zombie mind slaves.
It was when Snow started killing all the people I started getting bad feelings. Subconsciously, I knew there was no way she was getting out of that. And then when Gerta confessed her attraction to Talia . . . I think I knew Snow wasn’t going to be rescued. I was in denial about it, but I knew.
Ultimately, I understand this as a storytelling decision. It works, it finishes everything off thematically . . . but it sucks. Snow was such a great character, and not just seeing her die, but the WAY she died, and what she was forced to do on her way out. I just kind of hated it.
Ultimately, I’m glad I read this series, despite my rocky relationship with this last book (and really, the second book). The third book was definitely the best (and my favorite), but the whole thing is worth a read.