The Snow Queen’s Shadow, by Jim C. Hines

The Snow Queen's Shadow, by Jim C. Hines book coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Daw Books
Published: 2011
Reviewer Rating: five stars
Book Review by Joshua Palmatier

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The Snow Queen’s Shadow is the fourth and (supposedly) final novel in Jim C. Hines’ Princess series and I will say right off the bat that it is by far the best book in the series. In fact, it’s the best book Jim C. Hines has written to date.

The basic premise is that the Queen Beatrice is dying and Snow White intends to keep her around by placing her spirit inside of a constructed body. Upon her deathbed, Snow attempts to lure her spirit to the created body… and Beatrice turns away. In her desperation and grief, Snow pushes her mother’s magic mirror too far and it shatters, releasing the demon her mother trapped within it into the world. The demon inhabits Snow, stripping away all of her joy and supposedly showing her the real world, without all of the lies that we all use to make living bearable.

Under the demon’s influence, Snow seizes control of some members of the royal household using shards of the mirror, but Danielle’s young son appears to be immune to the demon’s power, so Snow kidnaps him and returns to her homeland… where she intends to destroy all of those who sentenced her to death after she killed her mother and reclaim her throne. Danielle and Talia (Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty) race after her–Danielle to save her son; Talie to save Snow, who she loves.

The reason that this book works so well, in my opinion, is because even though the demon is the danger here, in the end Danielle and Talia are facing off against Snow White, which means that the reader is automatically emotionally invested in the fight. We WANT the demon to be defeated, the problem is, can it be done while simultaneously saving Snow? That questions is what drives the tension in the novel, and this tension is augmented by having the book mostly written from Talia’s POV, since she’s desperate to save her because she’s in love with her.

The reader has journeyed with Snow for three other adventures now, the fact that Snow is seriously in trouble and there doesn’t seem to be a way out of it puts all of us on the edge of our seat. And I was on the edge of my seat. I lived the book in the same way that Danielle and Talia did–desperately trying to figure out how to save Snow before the demon harmed Danielle’s son or destroyed Snow completely.

How the book ends . . . well, that would be a spoiler now, wouldn’t it? But I can say that the end of the book–and ostensibly the end of the series–is perfect. This book is well written, it’s dark, it contains a range of emotion, and those emotions come from every one of the three Princesses. This isn’t Snow’s story, or Talia’s story, to Danielle’s story… ALL THREE of them are deeply entwined in what has happened to Snow for different reasons, and that’s what gives the novel its greatest strength.

On one hand, the fact that Hines has ended the series on such a great book thrills me, even if it is the end . . . on the other, because this is so good and the quality has only increased over time, I’d love to see another Princess book. But I do think it would be hard for Jim to top this one, so I agree that it’s time to move on. I’ll definitely be looking for the first book in his next project. Way to go, Jim!

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