“A boy got a splinter in his eye, and his heart turned cold. Only two people noticed. One was a witch, and she took him for her own. The other was his best friend. And she went after him in ill-considered shoes, brave and completely unprepared.”
I wanted this book to never end, and I'd have sat in class with Hazel and traveled the frozen woods with her forever. I'm in love with this book.
Confession time: The Snow Queen is my favorite Anderson story and really the only one I read regularly. So I was sold on this story for that reason alone; however, it's a retelling, keep that in mind. And the first half of the book shows Hazel's mundane world. It's setup, real life, people she cares about and the ones she doesn't, and everything she's trying to escape and yet save. It might feel as if the book is not starting but I enjoyed seeing the world through Hazel's eyes. Her mind is a fertile and imaginative place and I loved seeing the potential magic in the mundane world.
Her friendship with Jack was beautifully done. Even when things are at their worst, her loyalty and love for him does not waver. I'll agree with another reviewer, they seem to complete each other - they are stronger together then separate and the author shows this very well. I've seen the amazing friendship that can come from that.
All the characters, even the ones inhabiting the woods, were so real and...human (most of them). Hazel and Jack of course stood out but two others were Ben, a boy she meets and who helps her, and the White Witch (More about that later!) The man and woman were also very interesting and were the cause of one of my longest breaks from the book as I digested it all. This segment was both familiar from the source material and also quite different and I found both sides of that interesting. The descriptions all the children give to them turned haunting as you heard it repeated again and again while learning of the results.
The White Witch was fascinating. My favorite moment with her was when she picked up Jack while he was sledding and as a joke comments, "Would you like some Turkish Delight?" So much description went into every moment with her...and that was, I felt, the one weakness. Here words alone rendered her as an other - inhuman - and people's reaction to her name built up the dread and sense of fear the author was going for. The constant descriptions of her actions connected with her words, in my opinion, almost worked against the ambiance that had been created.
I listened to the audiobook rather then reading the book first, something I've been more adventurous in doing lately. In this case, it worked out quite well. Kirby Heyborne took me a bit to get use to but he did a great job, capturing Hazel's thoughts so well.
And now for the ending. This is a LONG spoiler!
Despite my deep issues with the ending, I found this book to be a powerful and moving experience to listen to. I plan to read it at some point but I highly recommend the audiobook.
“Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack who got lost in the woods. His best friend went after him. Along the way, she had many adventures. She met woodsmen, witches, and wolves. She found her friend in the thrall of a queen who lived in a palace of ice and had a heart to match. She rescued him with the help of a magical object. And they returned home, together, and they lived on, somehow, ever after.
It went something like that, anyway.”