Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
Published by: Flatiron Books
Pub Date: September 5, 2017
Format: hardcover | Source: library
Genres: young adult, fantasy, retelling
Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale
At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.
Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.
Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.
I’ve read my fair share of retellings and this is one of the best I’ve ever read. Definitely a new favorite! It takes a story that is inherently filled with notions of innocence and jealousy and female competition (Snow White) and turns it into something complex and emotional. There is magic, and there is plot, but this is 100% a character driven narrative. It’s a book to read slowly and absorb (even though I read the last 300 pages in one sitting). We don’t know a lot about the world but there is enough to make it lush and atmospheric even if I’d like to know more.
There is also a dual narrative between Lynet and her stepmother Mina, with Mina’s being split between the past and the present. Her two POVS worked so well and slowly knot themselves together into the main narrative; it’s fascinating to see how her relationship with Lynet has shifted over the years. And I love that we got both Mina’s and Lynet’s POV because the story is really all about them and their relationship, the parallels and the differences, the genuine love and jealousy and growth, the communication. Mina is not your typical wicked stepmother, which thrilled me. Lynet is not a breakable bird no matter what her father believes. Each woman has agency and conflicting feelings and character growth and her own romance, and I just adored the complexity and sincerity of their mother-daughter relationship.
Lynet has a budding romance with Nadia, the castle surgeon, and while it didn’t make me swoon, it made me so happy to see a f/f romance in YA fantasy. It was the slowest burn possible but it is a real friendship (with some bumps along the way) that blossoms into a very real and sweet first romance.
I also really loved the fairy tale twists with the Mirror, the traditional Snow White ending, and many other little nods to the original. The climax was exciting and while I’m not familiar with The Bloody Chamber as a comp title, I can see the Frozen influences and they were done perfectly. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is dark but full of hope and magic and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you love retellings, dark fantasy, complicated relationships, and complex women. It’s the perfect fall/winter book and I love that it’s a standalone too.
(Trigger warning: there is one scene that caught my attention that might be a trigger or bother some readers- when Lynet meets Nadia in the North Tower for the first time, Lynet is climbing the outside ledge and briefly contemplates what it would be like to die if she let go. I wouldn’t really call it a suicidal thought- it’s more existential and in the context of the story, you’ll understand why- but it made me pause so I thought it was worth mentioning.)
Have you read Girls Made of Snow and Glass? Do you love fairy tale retellings like I do?