Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Length: 81 pages
Source: Library eBook
Enter a world of elemental magic, forbidden romance, and betrayal in this prequel to New York Times bestselling author Danielle Paige's upcoming Stealing Snow.
Young Nepenthe is half-princess, half-mermaid. Though she longs for the sea, her father wants her to stay on land. But only love can make a mermaid give up the water, and Nepenthe doesn't love anyone the way her mother loves her human father. She wants to live as a mermaid and become the River Witch, like her mother.
Then Nepenthe meets Prince Lazar, the son of the all-powerful Snow King of Algid, and she can't help but fall for him. After a horrible tragedy strikes, Nepenthe joins forces with a young fire witch named Ora to save Lazar and protect the kingdom. But it soon becomes clear that Ora loves Lazar just as much as Nepenthe does... And now Nepenthe must decide: inherit the power of the River Witch, or betray her friend to be with the boy she loves.
And Nepenthe's role in the prophecy is only just beginning. . . In the future, she is destined to cross paths with a girl named Snow, who will have the power to change Algid forever - for better, or for worse.
Protagonist: Nepenthe has lived her whole life with a choice hanging over her head. Born of two different worlds Nepenthe can choose to either succeed her father as the ruler of her kingdom on land or live in the water and succeed her mother as The River Witch. Nepenthe lived on the line between land and river, but after tragedy strikes her choice seems to be made for her. That is until years later she meets Prince Lazar and develops feeling for him, feelings that her best friend Ora seems to share. Now her choices are confused and she's not sure where she'll belong. I really liked Nepenthe, she's not a character who has everything worked out, and she feels such strong pulls toward land and water, and yet doesn't know quite what to do. Even though her life spirals into a bit of a mess, she's still a strong character who won't compromise her morals to get what she wants.
Romance: To say this romance is complicated is a bit of an understatement. Since this is such a short story, at least compared to most novels, there isn't all that much time to properly develop a one on one romance, let alone a love triangle, but I have to say that Paige does a pretty good job. This is mostly due to the fact that Paige doesn't pretend that any of these feelings are pure, there's always something underneath that almost corrupts these romances, something that either one or the other values above the love they claim to have. It's really interesting to read it because even though things are going fast, it still, in some small way, makes sense.
World Building: This story takes place before the official first installment in this series. In it, we're introduced to a few really interesting plot points. First is a prophecy that I'm sure we'll see a lot more of in the main series, but it does give a taste of what's to come. Also, we're introduced to a character who will, supposedly, have a role to play in the main series and will come into contact and (maybe) give some guidance to our main heroine. I have to say it was interesting getting to know this world. I was pleased to see that The Snow Queen isn't the only fairy tale that exists and is referenced in this world. Nepenthe's mother is none other than "The Little Mermaid" who apparently got a much happier ending than the one in the original Hans Christian Anderson version. I loved the magic system and the role that magic plays, not only in this story but in this fantasy world at large.
Predictability: I have to say that this story isn't really predictable. I was expecting something that fit in much more with the fairy tale retellings and other YA stories that are out there today, and while I'm sure there are quite a few that would have similar parallels to this story, it's not something that's the norm. Since I didn't quite know where the story was going, there were a variety of different twists ranging from the surprising to the utterly shocking. I'm trying to figure out if there was anything that I was correctly able to guess ahead of time, but in all honesty there probably wasn't.
Ending: I love how self-aware this story is. The author writes it in such a way that it's no secret that this isn't your classic fairy tale and the ending shows that as well. There are steep prices these characters have to pay for the choices they make as this story comes to a close and sets in motion an ancient prophecy. The final climax of this story isn't so much an epic battle as it is something where we get answers to some burning questions. Then the story flows into an ending. there isn't really a cliffhanger and yet things aren't really tied up since this story is just a precursor to the main series.
If you've been reading my reviews for a while now and couldn't tell, I'm a huge fan of fairy tale retellings and if the main novel is half as good as this novella seems to indicate it is I'm sure I'll love this fresh take on The Snow Queen.