Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave.
She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate…
I wanted to love this book. I really, really did. I’d heard such amazing things about the Dorothy Must Die series and even better things about Stealing Snow, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations. I was expecting an intimidating and sassy main character with a snarky attitude and a no-nonsense vibe. I was expecting a captivating plot that was equal parts creepy as it was romantic. I was expecting a book that would overtake the world and sear itself on everyone’s hearts and stand with the other amazing retellings of our time. But, alas, it did not do any of those things. Instead, Stealing Snow ended up being a book that fell short of my expectations and will simply be a pretty cover on a shelf.
The one thing I actually liked about this book was its ability to draw me in from the first page. I was excited to spend time in this world and grow close to the characters and have adventures with them throughout the course of the novel. And the first few pages were really promising. I thought that this book was going to a fast-paced read that I would be unable to put down. But as the novel progressed, I felt myself losing interest with each page-turn. It wasn’t that the idea behind this novel was boring, I just felt that the writing could have flowed better and the action could have been equally spread throughout the first few chapters and not just allude to the things that would occur later in the book.
One of the things that I just didn’t understand was how Snow actually was admitted into this mental hospital. We were given a little bit of information about her past that basically told us that she walked into a mirror when she was six and they her parents decided to spare themselves the hardship of bringing up a young girl and instead they sent her to this institution. Honestly, everyone does weird things when they were younger and honestly, it was kind of insulting in the way that this book conveys mental illness to readers. The thing that kept Snow in the institution was biting people, which is obviously a sign of insanity, right? And she only needed to stop taking her meds in order to become an ice princess? Honestly, that was really derogatory to people who do suffer from mental illnesses. Not okay.
As soon as we left the institution, we found ourselves in this magical kingdom with Snow. While I understand that this book could have been trying to portray Snow’s confusion and wonder at being in this different world, there was absolutely no world-building. I found myself desperately grappling for any insight into what this world looked like, but I couldn’t find anything and that meant that I couldn’t lose myself in the story. Additionally, there wasn’t really any history of this place that we got to hear about, which meant I had no idea of how this society functioned and what made it tick. Good world-building is integral to any fantasy or retelling, and the fact that this book was missing this crucial aspect meant that I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.
But the thing I hated most about Stealing Snow was the love square. Think about your typical badly-written love triangle and then add a guy. It was absolutely ridiculous. I mean, how many men do you have to fall in love with in one novel? First, she’s in love with a boy from her institution who’s kidnapped and taken into the magical world, where Snow decides to venture into to save him. Then, she meets the typical brooding bad-boy and they fight and then end up kissing, because why not? And lastly, she comes across another boy who happens to be a thief and, inevitably, falls in love with him too. Can I just point out that a character doesn’t have to fall in love with every character they meet? It was bordering on comical.
But all of these problems would have been made a little less painful if I loved our main character, Snow. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. I really wanted to love her personality and enjoy going on this wild adventure with her, but she was just straight-up annoying. And it’s not just because she fell in love with everyone on the male species, but it’s also because she’s portrayed to be this ‘special little snowflake’ and no one else has the same abilities as her or is as powerful as her. It was so close to being the Chosen One trope that it made me roll my eyes in some scenes.
I had high hopes for Stealing Snow and unfortunately they weren’t met. It’s an overly-complex retelling that pinches from innumerable fairytales and ultimately just doesn’t come together that well.
Have you read Stealing Snow? Did you enjoy it, or did you think it was lacking in some areas? What’s your favourite retelling? What do you think is integral in every retelling? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Title: Stealing Snow
Publication date: 6th October, 2016
Australian RRP: $16.99