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: Rue from Princess Tutu dancing with a raven (belle et la bete)
Writing up Plain Kate reminded me that I never did a post about the other dark and non-romantic fairy tale that I read recently (...ish), T. Kingfisher's The Seventh Bride.

I'm familiar with Ursula Vernon aka T. Kingfisher mostly by proxy -- people talking about her and reblogging her stuff in my vicinity -- and I've been meaning to read her stuff for a while; I liked The Seventh Bride and thought it was well done, but I'm not sure it was the best place for me to start.

In The Seventh Bride, Rhea the teenage miller's daughter is deeply disconcerted one day to learn that a friend of the local lord has asked for her hand in marriage. Rhea has minimal interest in marrying a stranger at best, but she and all her family are aware that if she refuses, economic consequences could potentially be severe.

Before the wedding, Rhea's creepy new husband-to-be asks her to come to his creepy manor house in the middle of the woods and spend a couple of days there, which everyone agrees is WILDLY INAPPROPRIATE, but. (The author clearly wants you to feel sympathetic for the family and their predicament and their inability to help their daughter, and I do, but I kept wondering at this point why, even if they know they can't cancel the marriage, one of her family members doesn't at least go with her into the creepy forest! But that's another story.)

Anyway, although Rhea is aware that the situation is deeply sketch, she is nonetheless still surprised to find the creepy manor house populated by several other wives, each one weirder, angrier, and more magically cursed than the last.

What follows is an unnerving sharp-edged fairy tale full of the kind of surreal and vivid imagery that I associate with Peter Beagle, or even Angela Carter. Occasionally I felt that the prose style was a little bit at war with the actual story. Kingfisher/Vernon (both from this book and from the the other snippets I've seen of hers) has a light, warm authorial voice that gets a lot of its humor out of pragmatism -- it's the kind of thing I tend to like a lot, and often balancing that kind of voice with a darker story can work very well for me, but in this case I was thrown a little off-balance a few times as events got more and more Gothic and the cute pet hedgehog continued to look adorably sardonic about it. I liked the book overall, though, and will definitely be reading more Kingfisher.


skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)

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