What about Retellings Makes Me Love Them So Much? - A (Non-Spoiler) Girls Made of Snow & Glass Discussion + Mini Review

Saturday, October 14, 2017
What about Retellings Makes Me Love Them So Much?

If you've stuck around Quartzfeather long enough, you're probably already aware that I'm a HUGE retellings junkie. So Girls Made of Snow and Glass being one of my most anticipated books of 2017 comes as a surprise to a grand total of no one. After finally finishing (and loving) the book, I couldn't get this one question out of my head: "What about retellings makes me love them so much?".

By all means, I shouldn't like them as much as I do.

Typically I despise genres that are essentially filled with the same basic story structure and story elements repeated over and over again, with only a couple of things—like setting and characters—swapped out. That gets tiring really fast (*side eyes dystopian*). But the entire premise of retellings is that they're based on preexisting and usually very well established stories. So, what's up?

Girls Made of Snow and Glass, being a retelling of Snow White, contains many of the elements of the original story,

such as: the titular princess's all important association with snow, the evil queen/stepmother's connection with mirrors, and the classic death-like sleep. However, at the same time, the author, Melissa Bashardoust, also includes many elements that are entirely unique to her work, like: a mysterious curse that needs resolving, political and social issues concerning a north-south divide, Mina's (the Evil Queen figure) glass heart, and best of all, Lynet (the Snow White figure) gets a female love interest.

Nico Benedickt / Unsplash
Picture of a snowy castle

By the way, these random photos I've scattered throughout the post are like aesthetics of the book. I'm just trying this out so tell me if like or dislike them!

I suppose you could argue that this what a lot of dystopian authors do too: throw in some new plot points here and there, add an original geopolitical conflict, and change up the characters representing the basic genre archetypes, but, upon closer inspection, I'd like to argue that these two scenarios are actually slightly different, even though on the surface they certainly don't look it.

When I start reading a retelling, I'm not expecting originality.

I've approached this book already knowing it's basic plot structure, and perhaps even seeking that odd comfort that comes with familiarity. Fairytales are a cornerstone of basically every childhood, so getting to see one redone and refitted for your current reading level is always exciting. Plus, the original fairytales I grew up with—Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen (sorry, my childhood was pretty Disney-less)—were pretty barebones stories, making them a perfect canvas to be built upon.

Daniel Burka / Unsplash
Picture of the southern palace

The plot may not be wholly original, but a good retelling always incorporates fresh and distinctive details, further fleshes out the original story, and sometimes even contains the author's own unique perspective on the fairytale they're retelling, as most everyone has different childhood memories and emotions tied to them.

The dystopian genre lacks this feature.

There really is no set story structure backbone for dystopian, or at least not a particularly well-defined one, and it being a rather recent phenomenon means that very few will have such strong emotional connections to the genre.

For young adult at the very least, you could argue that The Hunger Games does serve as a backbone of sorts, as seen by the unnecessary amount of love triangles that the genre as a whole now possesses thanks to a certain forebearer (*cough* Team Peeta for life *cough*), but it really isn't universal enough or ingrained enough to fully act as one. So, when we see a repetitive trope in dystopian, instead of viewing it as a salute to the original story or as a fun easter egg as we do in retellings, we mark it off as a sign of unoriginality and as proof of the terrible level of inbreeding within the genre.

Aaron Burden / Unsplash
Picture of a snowflake

That's not to say that unoriginality or repetitiveness can't affect retellings either.

If I read too many retellings of say: Cinderella (that one seems to be really popular lately) in a row I will start getting bored. No matter how much of their own personal flair an author adds, the same basic story will always look the same, even when dressed up in a new fancy dress (ha). Which is why my own personal philosophy on retellings is to keep them relatively sparse, and only approach them when I'm in the mood for what they offer, no matter how much I adore them.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust Mini Review

( / Amazon & Goodreads & Book Depository)

Girls Made of Snow and Glass Cover Snip

Synopsis & Details: Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale At sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d read more... always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, 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, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Title: Girls Made of Snow & Glass
Series: N/A
Author: Melissa Bashardoust
Publication Date: September 5th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Retellings, Romance, Young Adult
Source: I received an arc from the publisher for review consideration (thanks Flatiron!) this in no way affected my review, cross my heart.

I agonized for days over my ARC request email before finally biting the damn bullet and hitting send cause just the thought of it was giving me jitters. After a couple of months, I'd long lost hope, but then, one day, a copy showed up on my doorstep, and it was like love at first sight. It's honestly kind of embarrassing how fond and careful I was with the book, it legitimately felt like one of the most precious things I owned. However, that also had some unintended side effects....

I'd built up the hype for Girls Made of Snow and Glass so high, that I was super terrified that the actual thing would disappoint me,

but my concerns proved to be in vain. While the book does start off a bit slow, the unraveling mystery and intriguing characters quickly pulled me in. Lynet and Mina are just such interesting contrasts of each other and their relationship felt incredibly real due to it's complexity.

Melissa Bashardoust reshapes the well-known story of Snow White to focus on the compelling dynamic between the evil queen and her stepdaughter,

carefully giving both of them their own complex backstories and motivations. She keeps enough of the original tale to retain that fairytale magic, but tweaks just enough to give her rendition a fresh feel. In case I haven't already made it abundantly clear (which I certainly have, probably much to the annoyance of many of y'all), I absolutely loved Girls Made of Snow and Glass, but as with most cases, I still have a bone to pick with it, even if it's a really, really tiny bone. (view spoiler)Lynet did end up feeling a tad overpowered at times. Everything just came so easily to her after she ran away because of her ability to manifest ANYTHING (and I mean absolutely anything) from snow, which is practically inescapable in the perpetually winter north. I suppose, that was kind of unavoidable, but it kind of ticked me off a bit for some reason.... Oh well, there I go being irrational again....

Jan Tielens / Unsplash
Picture of the southern palace dome

Girls Made of Snow and Glass's summary markets it as being like Disney's Frozen, which honestly caught me a little off guard at first, cause you know, different fairytales. But, after reading the book, I must admit that the parallels are definitely there: a strong emphasis on female relationships, ice magic, and a wintery setting. However, Girls Made of Snow and Glass has a decidedly darker tone—hence the comparison to The Bloody Chamber—and its world is much more fleshed out than Frozen's, which is expected considering the different mediums.

I will say though that you don't need to like Frozen to like this book.

I honestly am not a huge fan of Frozen (it's one of my least favorite of Disney's recent-ish works), but I still adored Girls Made of Snow and Glass. They may share many similarities, but they're still quite different in tone and purpose.

Do you love retellings too? Do you hate them? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter!