skygiants: Hazel, from the cover of Breadcrumbs, about to venture into the Snow Queen's forest (into the woods)
T. Kingfisher's The Raven and the Reindeer is an enjoyable Snow Queen variant that stakes out its territory with a few clear thematic changes:

- Kai was always kind of a jerk
- Gerta is projecting feelings onto Kay that neither of them really have
- Gerta's journey of discovery and self-knowledge is largely about getting over Kay and finding true love with the robber girl

The book commits hard to these things, as well as to the talking raven, and the creepy reindeer magic, and the Finnish-Sami setting. It's a well-written quest story and I had fun reading it, but as soon as I finished it I was struck with an irresistible urge to go to my bookshelf and reread Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs, which remains my all-time favorite Snow Queen retelling.

The books are doing extremely different things, so it's not really fair to compare them. The Raven and the Reindeer is a quest fantasy coming-of-age story, written for teens and adults. Breadcrumbs is a battle to the death against loneliness and depression as filtered through the iconography of fairy tales, written for eleven-year-olds. The Raven and the Reindeer is Robin McKinley; Breadcrumbs is middle-grade Utena.

Also, Breadcrumbs is not gay. Nor is it straight! Because everyone's eleven.

Now, having just said that it's unfair to compare them, I'm going to compare them anyways: talking about Gertas and Kays and robber girls in a spoilery fashion )

As a sidenote, I don't think I've ever actually read the whole original of Anderson's Snow Queen, but from similarities among all Snow Queen variants I have now collected the following important facts about the Snow Queen:
- snow is made of bees
- having a frozen heart makes you very good at math
- flowers are more helpful than almost any human being
- the best thing to do with a kidnapped child is make them do ice puzzles for you
skygiants: fairy tale illustration of a girl climbing a steep flight of stairs (mother i climbed)
Today I'm going to talk about Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs, which is sort of a retelling of The Snow Queen, which means that if you are, for example, a person who is currently writing a retelling of The Snow Queen, do not read this post! MOVE ON. NOTHING TO SEE HERE.


Anyway: Breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs is about a girl named Hazel, who doesn't fit. She doesn't look like her parents; they got her from India when she was a baby. She doesn't have much of a family anymore; her dad got up one day and left. She doesn't fit in her new school; in her old school she used to get praised for her imagination, but here she's just weird, just different.

She's still got her best friend Jack, though. And when they share story ideas or play superhero baseball together (this involves superheroes who playing baseball while trying not to give away that they are superheroes - Batman has a terrible average, for whatever reason) things are pretty much okay.

But one day Jack stops talking to her, and then he disappears, and it's up to Hazel to go into the woods to get him back -- the woods that are full of witches and swans and dancing red shoes, the woods where you can find all the things that are cruel and nonsensical and true about fairy tales.

The real world is cold, unpredictable, and devastatingly lonely.

The woods are worse.


This is one of the best books I've read this year. It's also a book I feel like I need to stick a trigger warning on - not for any of the usual kinds of things, really, but for devastating emotional honesty about loneliness, and loss, and the fact that living in the world is sometimes the hardest thing to do. But recommended, very much.
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (dickon mary cuteness)
I actually had two unrelated people rec me Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlett in the same day, which seemed to me a pretty strong indication that I should read it. (Of course, it is always possible that [livejournal.com profile] emmlet and [livejournal.com profile] obopolsk secretly know each other and are embroiled in some kind of conspiracy that uses YA novels as secret code. SORRY FOR BLOWING YOUR COVER, GUYS.) Anyway, conspiracy or not, they are both pretty good at judging my taste; Suite Scarlett is a book that centers on a.) zany hijinks, b.) Hamlet, and c.) sibling relationships! And you guys know if there is one thing I really love in YA lit, it is awesome non-romantic family relationships.

(You wouldn't think I would have to put 'non-romantic' in there, would you. Unless you've been in fandom. Then you would, in fact, realize why. Scarlett/Spencer 'shippers, you can sing out, it's okay! I won't judge! Well, okay, maybe I will a little.)

More thoughts under cut; no spoilers, lots of babbling about fictional siblings! )

Speaking of non-romantic family relationships, I just read the third book in another series that is near and dear to my heart because it is fantasy adventure that stars cousins! I hear a lot of talk about Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, which is a book that I definitely do plan to read one of these days, but as far as wacky-adventures-with-Greek-gods go, I am really fond of Anne Ursu's Cronus Chronicles. It's nothing spectacular or deep as far as literature goes, but there are a few things that make this series stand out a bit from many of the other teenagers-fight-the-gods series for me -

- as I said: in conclusion, no really, they're cousins! Zee (short for Zachary) and Charlotte are a fabulous team, and, while I am certainly not anti-romance, it's kind of nice to see a boy-girl pair who are really close and completely devoted to each other without romance being an issue.
- also, their family is multiracial; Charlotte is white, but Zee's mom is black British and his grandmother is Malawi, and all of these things affect his life while not being the whole sum of his character. And again, just in terms of bucking the trend, it is cool to have neither of our protagonists be a white dude for once. (Which is even reflected on the cover! It is sad that I have to award Atheneum Books points for this, given that it should be standard, but go Atheneum anyway.)
- Ursu does a really good job of balancing the teamwork - I was keeping track throughout the three books of the series, because sometimes I'm a freak that way, and the rescues and world-saving hijinks are exactly evenly divided! It's awesome!
- also, Anne Ursu is just a funny writer. Her style would probably not be for everyone, and sometimes I find myself rolling my eyes when it slides a shade into the cutesy, but much of the time I am giggling my way through the books, which makes for a fun time.
(- the entrance to the Underworld is through the Mall of America, there is a jovial elderly British kraken, and the destined one of the prophecy is a Canadian Quiz Bowl champ named Steve. I can't help it, okay, I just like Anne Ursu's brain!)

Having just finished the series, I can say there are a few things I am disappointed in, but overall the books are excellent brain candy. If you're burnt out on Greek gods, I cannot in the least blame you, but if you are in the mood for YA mythological hijinks, maybe give these a go!

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