“This is what you were meant for.”
This book surprised me in the best way possible. I’m not usually interested in reading retellings [I know. Unpopular opinion. Boo! Hiss!]. I’m always searching for something new and have always thought that if a story has already been written, especially if it’s known around the world, then there’s not much point in telling it again. I may need to rethink this prejudice after loving this character driven book so much.
I may be getting into semantics here but I see this story as more of a reimagining than a retelling. Sure, you have some elements from Snow White. There’s the stepmother, stepdaughter, doting father, huntsman, even a mirror. Not an apple, but there is a peach, even if it’s not there for the reason you’re expecting. Then there’s the so much more, and that’s what captivated me.
If they love you for anything, it will be for your beauty.
Whenever a story is told from various perspectives I usually have a favourite, someone I wish had more page time, or even all of the page time. Not the case here. I fiercely loved both Mina and Lynet. Mina, the stepmother, has a glass heart and thinks she’s broken. Told from an early age that she’s incapable of giving or receiving love, she seeks a substitute through power. Lynet, the stepdaughter, is a warm and loving girl who is made of snow, but she seeks freedom and an identity separate from the mother she never knew.
The supporting cast are just as interesting. King Nicholas’ grief is all-encompassing; the result is a distorted facsimile of love that I found exceedingly creepy. Meanwhile Gregory, Mina’s father, is a psychopath who I was eager to see dispatched of in increasingly painful, drawn out deaths. Outside of the two main characters my favourite was Felix, quite possibly the most human of them all. I wanted more time getting to know Nadia, a surgeon whose own backstory warranted more exploration.
One day they would both start to see each other differently, and Mina couldn’t imagine how they could become anything but enemies on that day.
I loved the complexity of the relationship between Mina and Lynet. The bond between mothers and daughters is complicated here by the story’s fathers. Circumstances could have easily cast either of these women in the role of villain, their lives dictated by the past and those who would gain from their mutual hatred.
I always have such an appreciation for stories that cause me to reflect on my own life, in particular my choices and my character. Having the courage to step out of the shadows of the past to write our own future is something I can empathise with. I also thought a lot about how we can simultaneously want to push people away and have them love us when we feel unlovable.
If she shone brightly enough on the outside, could she blind everyone to what lay underneath?
Also, there’s magic in this book and it is wonderful!
Content warnings (from the author’s website):
- “Parental abuse – mostly verbal/emotional abuse and some physical intimidation, but including instances of physical abuse.
- Mentions of suicide, suicidal ideation, and self-harm.
- Violence/assault (but no sexual violence/assault).
- Death and grief.”
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the opportunity to love this book. I can’t wait to read Girl, Serpent, Thorn!
Once Upon a Blurb
Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone. In fact, it has never beat at all, for her father cut it out and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.
Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image. Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina, but when her father makes her queen of the southern territories, Mina starts to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do – and who to be – in order to win back the only mother she’s ever known … or else defeat her once and for all.