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 started reading this book at the beginning of August. It gave me a bit of a headache, but since I’d just finished exams I thought maybe I’d wait until I was a little more rested and give it another chance.
Unfortunately, I felt exactly the same way. I wanted to finish it because I had some vague curiosity as to what might happen at the end, but there was something about the way the book was written that had me rereading sentences every couple of paragraphs. Oddly structured and meandering doesn’t quite cover it, it just made me tired trying to make sense of what was happening.
I’ll be honest and say that from the first couple of chapters my hackles were up. I’m a little sick and tired of psychiatric hospitals written up as the source of all evil. I, personally, think the beginning section might have been better suited to a juvenile detention center…there’s a lot that can be said about the poor management of kids in the US criminal justice system, whilst psychiatric hospitals are actually there to do good. Maybe as a medical student and someone who has suffered with anxiety and depression I’m a little sensitive, or maybe the ‘evil psychiatric hospital’ is a trope that just needs to die.
I’ll say that there are one or two parts of the book that I really did enjoy, but that I didn’t think were built upon enough. There is a part near the beginning where we meet Kai and Gerde and there’s a wondrous house and lots of talk of different types of magic and the world they live in. The next is the section where we meet Jagger’s Robbers and their strange mansion which is a magpie amalgamation of all the architectures of great civilization. I had a very brief and pleasurable moment where I thought we might get something a little more ‘Six of Crows’-esque, but it never happened.
I struggled to work out where this book wanted to lie. Did it want to appeal to the upper part of middle grade or did it truly want to be gritty young adult? Quite a lot of Snow’s internal dialogue felt as if it was written for a younger audience, but then we had talk of drugs and slavery and graverobbing that threw my compass off course. I suppose it shouldn’t really matter but something about this book made it matter.
My biggest qualm with this book is that nothing of the plot or ending was satisfying or made sense. It leaped around like a frog on hallucinogens, had enough possible love interests that I honestly couldn’t tell which one was which, and, worst of all in my opinion, had no sense of threat. You did not feel as if anything truly could go wrong, or if it did then you weren’t particularly concerned. I wanted to like this book, I gave it a good month to grow on me when my stomach was telling me to just stop, but it just wasn’t to be.
I honestly felt as if the book needed to be entirely reworked and reshaped. Some meandering side branches needed to be chopped, the main plotline needed to braced into a coherent arc; it was a book without a central pillar, a book where sentences and paragraphs needed to be reforged so they didn’t make my eyes feel as if they’d read two identical segments one after the other.
I didn’t even dislike the premise of the story, was hopeful for the later segment of the book, but it just didn’t work.
Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for a copy in return for an honest review.