Title: Stealing Snow
Authors: Danielle Paige
Date of Publication: 20th September, 2016
Page Count: 375 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
First kisses sometimes wake slumbering princesses, undo spells, and spark happily ever afters.
Mine broke Bale.
Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent her life locked in Whittaker Psychiatric—but she isn’t crazy. And that’s not the worst of it. Her very first kiss proves anything but innocent…when Bale, her only love, turns violent.
Despite Snow knowing that Bale would never truly hurt her, he is taken away—dashing her last hope for any sort of future in the mental ward she calls home. With nowhere else to turn, Snow finds herself drawn to a strange new orderly who whispers secrets in the night about a mysterious past and a kingdom that’s hers for the taking—if only she can find her way past the iron gates to the Tree that has been haunting her dreams.
Beyond the Tree lies Algid, a land far away from the real world, frozen by a ruthless king. And there too await the River Witch, a village boy named Kai, the charming thief Jagger, and a prophecy that Snow will save them all.
Well. Sometimes I am blessed with the ARCs I’m approved for and other times, it is basically an ordeal trying to force myself to read them. This happens to be a case of the latter, unfortunately. I hate to be negative, but I’m struggling to think of anything I can praise this book for when it was just so subpar.
Snow is committed to a mental institution as a child for trying to walk through a mirror, after being inspired by her mother reading to her from ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland‘. Ignoring the implausibility of being able to break the mirror just from walking into it, thereby injuring herself and another girl badly enough for her parents to sue Snow’s family…what legitimate medical facility would lock up a 6-year old girl on that basis?! It’s beyond absurd!
I wanted to like Snow – the idea of a princess with a mental illness fascinated me, it would’ve been amazing to see how she faced her adventures while coping with the symptoms of a non-neurotypical brain. As someone who suffers from depression (partly the reason why my reviews are so late), I’ve been looking for books that feature characters who differ from the norm and who struggle with mental health issues, but wow, was this NOT the book for me. You would think that having been locked up since early childhood and heavily medicated while being told she’s crazy would have some impact on Snow’s personality, but she comes off just like any other snarky, feisty, Too-Stupid-To-Live heroine.
At one point, a character is giving her a massive chunk of clunky exposition to fill in Snow’s family history – while this should’ve been an earth-shattering moment for Snow, realizing that everything she’d ever believed was a lie, that magic was real, that she was the royal offspring of a witch and a sorcerer…instead her response is:
“So what happened? Why did my mother run from away from her icily ever after?” I smiled, proud of my pun.
I wanted to throw my phone at the wall at so many points, but this is a good example of the shallow juvenile characterization of our protagonist. She has no believable reactions to any of the bizarre situations she’s in, it’s just one wise-crack after another. I would LOVE to believe that this was a facade to cover up her vulnerability, but the text doesn’t support that at all.
Speaking of shallow, Snow’s entire motivation throughout the story is to save the love of her life, Bale, a fellow patient at the Whittaker Psychiatric Institute. This is a boy she bonded with when they were both six and she’s loved ever since…not that you would know it from the way she crushes on and pines after two different boys she meets in Algid after being transported to that kingdom! Seriously?! Where are your priorities, Snow, get it together!
She barely notices anyone else she meets because she’s so boy-crazy, mooning after Kai’s big blue eyes and Jagger’s masculine, clean, soapy and ‘all Jagger’ scent. Female characters only register to her in terms of their relationship to the boys and whether they’re a threat or not. Literally the first thing Snow thinks after a near-death experience is whether Gerde and Kai are related or dating! Because that’s the most important thing that would be on one’s mind at such a time! And when Jagger gives Snow ‘heist training’, aka a very obvious excuse to stand within kissing distance and gaze into each other’s eyes, she analyzes his scent and wonders:
Which Robber girl had been close enough to him to leave a lingering scent on his clothes?
Why do you care, Snow? You’re risking your life and facing off against a mad king to save your beloved Bale! Why are you kissing Kai one moment and fighting the temptation to lock lips with Jagger the next? This love rhombus is insufferable. This is the only time I’ll say that a love triangle would’ve been preferable because if a couple of the male love interests had been condensed into one, maybe they would’ve been graced with some depth and actual personality instead of being paper cut-outs that revolve around Snow.
As you can tell, I am less than impressed with the characterization in this book. Same goes for the world-building, which is just a giant mess, starting with Snow’s inexplicable method of transport to this fairytale land:
…my eyes were drawn to a fissure in the center of the Tree’s trunk. It broke apart with a sudden crack, proving my first instinct was right. There was no bark beneath the surface. Thousands of ice shards dropped from the branches and headed in my direction all at once. Terrified, I hid my face in my elbow, protecting my skin. But rather than pierce me, the icicles stopped a millimeter in front of me and dropped to the ground. Lifting my head fully once again, I saw the forest suddenly before me, bright as day. Which was impossible because it was nighttime. Or it had been. But this also didn’t look like the woods I was just in…
I thought I knew where this was going – the Tree was a magical dimension-hopping portal, and Snow would enter its hollow trunk and exit into another realm. I saw that on Stranger Things, it makes a certain amount of sense. But nope, the icicles surround her in a flurry and just like that, she’s in Algid? What just happened?!
While I’m on the subject of baffling visuals, early on there’s a description of a glass cube in a tree topped with sails that harness the energy of the wind and sun, which can withstand a Snow Tsunami. Okay, then. But another structure later on is described as being made out of ice and snow! So exactly what kind of society does Algid have because these kinds of structure seem very inconsistent and don’t gel with my impression of their level of technology.
Naturally, Snow turns out to be the subject of not one but TWO prophecies that involve her being the most powerful magic-user in the kingdom and determining the fate of their world. But don’t hold your breath waiting for a plausible transition from naive, sheltered, escaped mental patient to badass, all-powerful and mighty snow-wielding sorceress!
There is precisely NO time and effort to developing her powers – Snow is tossed off a cliff and all of a sudden, she activates her magical skills and is a pro in no time, creating champions out of snow to fight for her and ‘tornadoing’ herself from one place to another. Sigh. Because of course she does, she really is the embodiment of the ‘special snowflake’ syndrome.
The one positive comment I can make is that the ending really surprised me. I was honestly taken aback by a few of the revelations in the grand finale, but it’s a shame it took til nearly the final chapter for this book to interest me at last. It was a slow, dreadful slog all the way through til practically the last page – the writing was average, the characterization was poor and the world-building was underwhelming. This is, of course, just my opinion and there are people out there who’ve enjoyed this, but speaking for myself, I couldn’t recommend it to anyone in good conscience.
Personal Rating: 1 out of 5 kitties approves this book.
Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC free from Bloomsbury Publishing Plc via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.