The Snow Queen’s Shadow — Jim Hines

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“Do we LOOK like we need to be rescued?”

Finally! And wah, it’s the final book in the Princess series. Just as it felt like Hines’ Princess series was in full swing, it ended. The Snow Queen’s Shadow been out for four weeks, and if you haven’t bought it for a summer read in the shade to join your other three books in the series, why haven’t you?  ;)

If you haven’t, I’ll give you some reasons why it’s so good.  At its heart, it’s all about mothers and daughters and sisters and how love is perverted into hatred or morphed into revenge. There are no Daddy Issues(tm) in this final installment in Hine’s Princess series. Can I tell you how refreshing that is in a fantasy?

This is Snow White’s story all the way. I wish we’d had more hints earlier of Show White’s background other than the broad details of her fairy tale, but SQS fills in her horror-filled childhood and young adulthood well. It’s the happy-go-lucky quippers who always seem to have the most tragic, horrific backgrounds, eh? Not that the other princesses don’t have their own issues and harsh background stories, but Snow White’s mother affected many more people than her own family. She ruled a powerful kingdom in a way that Caligula would have envied. Talia’s betrayal involved her prince and his family, and while the they took over her kingdom and aren’t what you’d call nice, they also weren’t killing their citizens off in a sport-like manner. Cinderella? Her stepmother and sisters kept it personal, and they didn’t rule a huge, powerful kingdom like Snow White’s mother did.

The characters are solid, with believable motives that aren’t necessarily spelled out in great detail, but make sense when you think about it. The only thing that didn’t sit quite right with me was the mostly-proxy method of finding out about Snow White through another character…sort of another character. You have to read to understand it. Upon a reread, I couldn’t see how Hines could have done it any other way. It’s a good solution, but vaguely unsatisfying.

Talia and Danielle, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella respectively, have large, active roles. Danielle needs to save her child from what Snow has become, and Talia needs to save Snow from herself & the mirror demon. Queen Beatrice is gone, and Snow White’s need to hold on to her is the catalyst for all the action to follow. And there is a lot of action. Talia gets to whupass. Danielle gets to use her cleverness and political adroitness. And even under the influence of a demon that eliminates hope, Snow White is still Snow White. Irrepressible, powerful, and focused.

So, dear fellow readers, make your way to your bookshop and have a riproaring adventure. Girls rule! (really!)

Comments

  1. says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    Might I suggest you reread first three before taking the leap in? I also think I read an entry on his journal that although he was writing a new series (yay!) if a good story comes up for the Princesses, it’s not out of the realm of possibility he’d continue their stories.

    Also, if you read it, we can talk all about it here!

  2. Dani says

    “if you haven’t bought it for a summer read in the shade to join your other three books in the series, why haven’t you? ;)”

    Because the local Barnes and Noble doesn’t have it in stock ;_; Online shopping, here I come…

  3. Sally says

    I’ve also got the series on my shelf and on my TBR list.

    Right now I’m re-reading CJ Cherryh’s ‘Russian Series’ (after about 15 years). Then I have some non-fiction to read …THEN I’ll get to Hines!

  4. Shaun says

    So I read this and I’ve been thinking about it–what constitutes Daddy Issues for female characters in media? I understand the way female characters (especially in visual media) derive their importance from relation a to male character, but this seems kind more specific. If there’s been a previous article about Daddy Issues on Hathor I think I missed it.

  5. says

    Shaun,

    Not sure there ever was an article here, but the idea comes from fandom. Basically, it’s a trope in which a woman so desperately needs to please her daddy that it’s just not healthy, but it manifests in ways that leave one wondering WTF were the writers thinking. Like, the woman constantly falls for her bosses as proxy-Daddies, which creates a really icky power dynamic in her career situation, but the writers either (1) treat this as a healthy romance or (2) make her look stupid as it keeps blowing up in her face but she keeps doing it anyway. Or the woman’s romantic relationships always fail because none of the guys live up to Daddy, even though the guys are like perfect fantasy boyfriends. The least offensive manifestation is when it seems the writers can only conceive of a woman picking a traditionally male career path because she relates heavily to her daddy and (usually) was raised only by her dad or something non-traditional – and that’s still pretty offensive to me, because it reinforces the idea that it takes a non-traditional (read: “FUBAR”) home life (oh noes!!!) to veer a woman off her biologically preordained career path involving motherhood and possibly a career in wedding planning or baking or something pink.

    I think it all comes from shows like Cagney and Lacey where, IIRC, it was done well. Cagney’s parents were both manipulative, and she latched onto her dad early and picked his career path and struggled with her romantic choices, but this was properly explored as a relationship that had some very dysfunctional parts mixed in with the good stuff. I think plot-oriented writers who really just don’t get character see shows like that, only glean the most superficial details from it (“daddy’s career, got it… bad relationships with men, got it…”) and totally misunderstand all the deeper issues, if they’re even aware of them.

  6. Shaun says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I knew posting about a media trope was likely to get your attention.

    I think I’ve seen this phenomena now that you’ve pointed it out. It seems to be especially common when a character is created as the daughter of a male character, but I think I’ve seen it implied or stated on everything from Stargate to Buffy.

  7. M.C. says

    It’s the last book in the series? Well, fuck! How am I going to get my spy-warrior-princesses-bffs fix now?
    I admire Hines for not doing a L.K. Hamillton and doing endless sequels, but still…

    Someone recommend me some substitute reading asap, please. I’m already through with The 10th Kingdom and Outlaws of Sherwood (I know, Cecily&Marian aren’t spy-warrior-princesses-bffs, but they’re spy-warrior-freedomfighter-bffs which is close enough).

  8. says

    Shaun,

    Hey, it’s kind of my “job” around here to try to explain the fuzzy dots on the landscape to people. :)

    Sam Carter definitely seemed an example of the trope – at least, with some writers. They were so inconsistent with her characterization. Did Buffy have implied daddy issues or some other character? Your mention is almost ringing a bell, but in some ways I just don’t remember the show that well anymore.

  9. says

    Whoops! Sorry about the Daddy Issue thing! In this case, I meant it more or less the way Jennifer said, PLUS in the way to say that instead of a daddy being the central issue, it’s the mother in this case who is the main theme. I can’t tell you how tired I am of the trope of the young man being concerned only with his father in any one of a hundred permutations of that theme. It’s rare enough that a book is female-adventure centered, but also has as little to do with the father as possible. If anything, Hines makes it a point of knocking the fathers out of the storyline as soon as possible so that it doesn’t even become an issue.

    To me it’s really strange how many fantasies focus on the Daddy. I dunno-does it go back to the absent father in the 1950/60s and 1970s? I’m not sure. If dad’s not around, he becomes a fetish figure for those children who grew up that way (and I mean fetish in the classic meaning of the word, not the sexualized meaning) while mom is there everyday. And then it’s compounded by how the publishing industry/SF publishers have a hard time moving toward women writers…who even then are so used to this Daddy trope, will more often than not follow the classic male story template because that’s what the publisher expects if they hope to get published! (this is a summary, not a be-all statement; not all writers follow this path, and not all publishers are this closed minded)

    I’ve so enjoyed Hine’s series, along with a few others. When I started out with Hathor, it wasn’t a big deal for me to shrug, pick up a book with a male protagonist doing male tropish things, and I would be able to insert myself into that character even though I didn’t *like it* exactly. It’s what I had to do with Heinlein and a dozen other writers when I was a girl. And now, the disparity in female characters and their issues is so effing glaring, almost any book I come along with good female representation (even if the boy tropes are applied to a girl) I’m over the moon-at least at first.

  10. Shaun says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I was actually thinking about the doctor character from the later seasons who was the daughter of General… Landry? I didn’t see much of her but what I saw was a lot of, I’m just like my dad and not my mom.

    Buffy was /explicitly/ stated to have daddy issues in Season 4 by Maggie Walsh. She was Buffy’s psychology Professor and secretly the head of the Initiative, and if you don’t remember what that is I’m not going to ruin that blissful amnesia for you. >> Anyway if I remember right she tells Giles that Buffy has problems x, y, and z because she was raised in a household without a father and implies or says that Giles has been a shitty father figure. Then later she goes off and spies on Buffy and Riley having sex via surveillance cameras and later tries to kill Buffy, even though Riley treated her like a mother figure and not a sexual rival to Buffy and you know what I don’t even know. The big tirade about “girls from fatherless families turn out like x” is what always stuck with me about her character.

  11. Shaun says

    I should add. I don’t think sexual rivalry was the motivation for wanting to kill Buffy, I think it was pretty clearly about Buffy being a threat to Riley’s loyalty and focus (although I thought that was really stupid since Buffy is so clearly a useful weapon under that logic). The way it was presented though, with the creepy sex-watching, was definitely weirdly sexual.

  12. says

    Shaun,

    Didn’t see the later seasons, and don’t think I know the doctor character. I remember Walsh saying that, but I thought that statement was to be taken as further proof that she was full of crap and malignant – the show having a laugh at that trope rather than engaging in it.

  13. SunlessNick says

    Shaun,

    I think it was pretty clearly about Buffy being a threat to Riley’s loyalty and focus (although I thought that was really stupid since Buffy is so clearly a useful weapon under that logic).

    I think in part, they were also going for an evil stepmother vibe – when Adam was reading her diary later on, he says that she referred to him and Riley as her favourite children.

  14. says

    Finally read SQS. I agree with you that Gerta’s character didn’t sit quite right with me (for me because of her relationships with the other characters) but I also don’t see a better way to handle it.

    I also think there might be a good, if spoilery, conversation about Gerta’s queerness. I personally don’t have any problem with people choosing to be queer (which isn’t exactly what happens with Gerta, but sort of close) but I know there’s a lot of political investment in the “born this way” model.

    And as for daddy issues, I agree, it was refreshing how this was handled. Snow’s father is mentioned…I think thrice? Because Snow’s mother murdered her father and Snow loved him. But this is only one of many, many reasons she hates her mother.

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