Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Length: 384 pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley
Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she's not crazy and doesn't belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.
Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn't what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid--her true home--with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she's sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she's destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything...including Snow's return to the world she once knew.
This breathtaking first volume begins the story of how Snow becomes a villain, a queen, and ultimately a hero.
Protagonist: Snow has lived most of her life in a mental institution. She's not crazy, though, not really but day after day she tries to stay out of trouble and not let the other patients get a rise out of her. She had a friend, or maybe more, in a boy named Bale, but after their first kiss something happened and he went violent and they were separated. Then a strange new orderly appears in the middle of the night telling her that she needs to escape and find Algid, her true home, and so after Bale gets pulled through a mirror she sets off for Algid hoping that once she gets there she can find and rescue Bale, but once there she discovers that she's smack dab in the middle of all this world's problems. I really liked Snow, even though she has power over ice and snow, she has a fiery spirit and sardonic wit that bring a sense of excitement in me while reading from her perspective. Her reaction to all this fantasy stuff was very well done and I felt the author did a fantastic job at creating a very compelling and realistic character in our heroine caught between the light and the dark.
Romance: Argh! I wanted to be on board with the romance(s) in this book, I really did, and for a time I was but three love interests all introduced in the first installment is more than I can handle. At first, I was on board with a possible love triangle. There was Bale the childhood friend and eventual romantic interest for Snow. We don't see much of Bale, but the little we do see makes it obvious that he's a love interest to take seriously. Then we have Kai, who we meet shortly after Snow makes it to Algid. Kai and Snow have a combative relationship at first, undercut by romantic and sexual tension, and again I'm all on board for this possible love triangle. Then we have Jagger who we meet early on in the story but isn't revealed to be a romantic interest until much later. By the time Jagger is revealed to be a love interest I've hit my breaking point, and it doesn't help that he embodies a romantic trope I hate, the alluring boy who is so annoyingly cocky. Since I have a feeling I'm supposed to take all these love interests seriously I'm really annoyed, two at a time I can handle, but three love interests, who are really the only guys in this book around Snow's age that we see and all have feelings for her is very annoying.
World Building: The saving grace of this book, the thing that pushed me forward even when my head was about to explode with how aggravating the romance is, is the world building. As I'm sure a lot of you have picked up on by now, I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. Especially when they are of lesser known fairy tales such as The Snow Queen, like this one is. What I found so interesting about this story is that while it seems to promise a prequel to The Snow Queen and her rise to power, it also serves as a retelling of the classic tale as well. Not only that but there are elements of many fairy tales spread throughout this story and this land. My one annoyance though comes from the fact that there are inconsistencies between the eARC that I read and the synopsis, inconsistencies so large that I'm wondering if it was shoddy synopsis work or if the finished copy has larger changes than there usually are between ARCs and finished copies. That wondering is really annoying because if there really are changes they could be very large and change my entire feeling of this story.
Predictability: Looking back on this story it was very hard to pinpoint where things were going to go. There were no easy paths that made sense and things shifted so smoothly from time to time that it was never easy to see what was coming next. That made for a very unpredictable story. I want to say that there were things I easily picked up on, things that the author wanted to leave a mystery but I can't. I have theories on certain things sure, but nothing that was revealed in this story was something I easily caught onto.
Ending: My God this ending was insane. I tried to find a better adjective for it, but I still haven't fully processed it yet. So going into the final climax there was a lot of book still left to cover, more than usual at least, and I was extremely pleased with this drawn out, beautifully and terrifyingly described final climax. What I didn't expect however was the twist, the giant twist that I did not see coming that lead to a huge snowball effect that either made this book all the more awesome or completely ruined everything. Again, I'm still processing this ending and since I don't think it'll be fully processed for a while, for the first time I'm actually happy for the wait between books and I'm glad I have some time before the next installment to fully process everything.
For once I'm truly at a loss for what to rate this book, and so while it does say four stars up there that may just as easily change once I've fully processed this book. There's a lot to love about this story but even after I've fully processed it I don't see this book getting five stars, mainly because of the clusterf*** of a romance.