Girls Made of Snow and Glass is Melissa Barshardoust’s first novel and her assured confidence and brilliant reimagining of the classic Snow White fairy tale has me already anticipating her next.
Lynet is approaching her sixteenth birthday when the story begins. She is overwhelmed by her father’s expectation that she will step into her mother’s shoes as Queen someday. Her uncanny resemblance to her mother seems to obligate her to sublimate her own wishes and ambitions to honor her dead mother’s legacy. Certainly her father is unable to see her as an individual separate from her mother. The only person who seems to see her as an individual separate from her mother is her stepmother, Mina and the new surgeon Nadia whom she is falling in love with. This all falls apart when Nadia reveals the terrible secret of her creation.
Mina came to court at sixteen, unloved and isolated by people’s fear of her magician father, she was determined for once to be on the inside looking out instead of the outside, looking in. To do that she set her cap for the King, determined to wed him and with his power, finally be accepted and loved. She succeeds at the former and fails at the latter, in large part due to her father’s interference and the King’s infatuation with his grief. However, she does become close to her stepdaughter Lynet, despite the King’s disapproval. Like Lynet, she carries a terrible secret.
Lynet is destined to be Queen, but that would displace Mina whose self-worth and identity is defined by her position. Lynet of the Snow and Mina of the Glass are set at odds by fate and fear and their struggle sets the stage for the familiar story of Snow White. There is even a Huntsman, though he is a far more important and complex character in this story. In many stories, women are set at odds with each other, demanding the destruction of one for the survival of the other. Lynet and Mina know that is what is expected of them. The question is whether they can change their fate.
I loved Girls Made of Snow and Glass. Even the magic of the story is innovative, this frozen land cursed by a Queen’s suicide, the magic of glass and snow, and the completely authentic emotional struggle at the heart of the story. It reminds me a bit of The Wizard of Oz, of the seekers desperately seeking what they already have, if they only realized it. There are real lessons to learn here, about not allowing others to define your capacity or limitations, not accepting outside judgments, and of believing in yourself.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass falls solidly within the traditional fairy tale tradition of telling stories of real traumas and fears that young people may face and providing a vehicle for working through them. There is loss, violence, thoughts of suicide, alienation, infidelity, and parental malpractice from too little and from misdirected love. This story is often grim, despite the beautiful and fanciful settings. That is what the fairy tales are for, for working out and through our fears. In this story, though, love is redemptive.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass will be released on September 5th. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.