Monday, 1 April 2019

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Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Published: 31st December 2018 | Publisher: Flatiron Books | Source: Bought
Melissa Bashardoust's Website

Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, 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 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.
From Goodreads.

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Trigger Warning: This book features child abuse; neglect, lack of love, manipulation, verbal abuse.

I have wanted to read Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust for such a long time; an f/f retelling of Snow White, where both the Snow White and Evil Queen/Queen Grimhilde characters get their story? I was sold! But I had been put off by someone saying they didn't think much of it, so I left it until F/F February Reading Challenge was announced and I realised it was out in paperback. And it was incredible!

Sixteen-year-old Mina has never known love. Her mother died when she was a young child, and has been left with her unloving and abusive father. Then she finds out why: her heart is made of glass. Her father, the magician Gregory, replaced her real, damaged one when she almost died, but now she is no longer capable of love nor can be loved. But she is very beautiful. When the King grants Gregory and his daughter a position at court after saving the life of his daughter, and Mina sees the King, she sees a way to find love. She can use her beauty to get the King to fall in love with her - a kind and warm man she believes she, herself, could love - and when they marry and she becomes Queen, the people will love her.
Fifteen-year-old Lynet is the spitting image of her mother, and she hates it. Everyone, including her father, the King, has expectations regarding who she is and who she will become because of the way she looks. No-one sees Lynet, not the person she is, only the former queen. Except for her stepmother, Mina - the one person who doesn't put pressure on her to be someone she's not - who Lynet loves dearly. When she discovers that she is made from snow - that the King had Gregory create for him a daughter who looked exactly like his deceased wife, when Gregory couldn't save the Queen - Lynet's world is turned upside down. Who she, Lynet, is doesn't matter; she was always meant to be Queen Emilia mark two. A duplicate, not her own person. When the King decides she is now ready to bear the duties of a queen, he tells both Lynet and Mina that Lynet will from now on be responsible for the South - which had always been Mina's responsibility. Lynet will replace Mina, to be the person she was always meant to be, and Mina will be left with nothing. Lynet can feel the shift in her relationship with Mina, and sees how Mina looks at her with jealousy and resentment. Only one can be queen, but Mina will not give up everything she's worked so hard for, so easily.

Oh my god, I absolutely loved this story! It's told from both Mina and Lynet's perspectives; Lynet's narration is in the present day, while Mina's starts when she was sixteen, and eventually catches up to the present day. While the story really builds on the basics of what makes the Snow White story, it still has most the elements we'd expect - a talking mirror, the desire for Snow White's heart, a huntsman, Snow White running away, poison - though they may not look how you expect, or the reasons behind them have changed. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a fully realised high fantasy retelling, with such a wonderful, lush world!

I loved the relationship between Mina and Lynet, and although not similar in regards to plot or story, it felt very reminiscent of Disney's Maleficent. As far as Lynet is concerned, Mina is her mother. Mina married King Nicholas when Lynet was still quite young, and so has been there for most of her life. There is a tenderness and acceptance from Mina that Lynet doesn't find anywhere else. Oh, her father loves her, but it's more like he loves her for who he thinks she is or will become, rather than for herself. Lynet looks up to Mina as this strong, fierce woman, and she's who she trusts and confides in.

When Mina's narration catches up to the present day, we get to see their relationship from her point of view, too. She may not admit it, but Mina is fond of Lynet, if a little jealous. How everyone loves her so easily! Even though she realises they love her for her likeness to a dead queen than for herself. She knows how this upsets Lynet, and makes her uncomfortable, so she allows her to be herself. A sort of bond has formed between them over the years - who could turn away a young child who looks at you adoringly? - but she has always known there would come a time when Lynet would replace her, which has caused her to hold back a little, though Lynet is unaware.

And it's so heartbreaking to see how everything changes when Lynet finds out the truth about her creation, and King Nicholas decides she should take over the South. Lynet then becomes Mina's rival, through no fault of her own; Mina and Nicholas' marriage is one only in name, and the people of Whitespring despise her for not being Queen Emilia, so the South is all she has, her only source of love - if it can be called that, when she never sees the Southern people. If Lynet takes over, and becomes queen, Mina will have nothing. She has always believed what her father told her - no-one can love her, and she cannot love - and she has constantly tried to prove him wrong, and, as far as she's concerned, has always failed. You can't help but feel for Mina. She's not the Evil Queen from Snow White you expect. She's a woman who has been treated badly her whole life, who has the worst self-esteem issues, and has done all she can to try to find love. She's so desperately unhappy.

Meanwhile, Lynet is reeling from the truth about her creation, and the fact that she's been lied to her whole life. And you can't help but feel for her, too. She's struggling with who and what she is. And the fact that she was never meant to be her own person, was only ever meant to be another Emilia - not just look like her, but expected to be her in every way possible. How she's constantly had people telling her who and what she is, because of how she looks, but because her dad intends for her to be exactly like her "mother". (Although it doesn't come up at all in the book, and doesn't come across like it, can I just say that, to me, it is incredibly creepy that King Nicholas had a child made in the image of his dead wife - who he is obsessed with - a child who will grow up to look exactly like her, who he expects to act and behave like her. There is something seriously dodgy there. At the start of the book, I did worry for a while that the King was going to fall in love with his own daughter because she looks like his dead wife. I just found it really creepy. Especially how he dotes on her, yet also tries to shape her into his deceased wife. Though nothing untoward happens in the book, or implies that their relationship is anything other than father and daughter. I just thought it was weird.)

Everything that happens to Mina and Lynet is down to the actions of men. It might not come as quite a surprise to hear that Girls Made of Snow and Glass is quite a feminist retelling. The book has a lot to say about what society wants of women; what is acceptable, or what it expects us to be. Because she has been told by her father that she can't love nor be loved because of her glass heart, Mina has bent and shaped herself into the person - the woman - she thinks she needs to be in order to be loved (why does that sound so familiar?); she wants King Nicholas to love her, she wants to be Queen so the people will love her, and she knows she can love the King because he's handsome, warm and kind. King Nicholas had Gregory make Lynet to look just like her "mother", and she feels this constant pressure from her father and her people to be this woman she never knew, rather than be herself. There's also the confusion of who - or rather what - she is. She wasn't born, she was created. From snow. Is she even human? ('"So what am I, then?" she said, her voice more like a croak. "Am I just... a doll?"' (p71)) One is trying to be someone they're not to feel accepted and loved, while the other has people wanting her to be someone else entirely.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass also has something to say about beauty - which is unsurprising, as it's  at the heart of the original story. Gregory tells Mina that if she will be loved for anything, it will be for her beauty. She embraces her beauty in the hopes it will bring her love, and uses the knowledge of her beauty to try and seduce the King. She uses her beauty coupled with facial expressions to go along with her tales sadness and loneliness - although true, she's learnt King Nicholas is more receptive to her when she is unhappy - to win him.

'That was one of the tricks she'd learned from their walks together, to speak bold words in a demure manner. Pointing your chin downward encouraged a man to lift it up again. Stumbling while walking invited him to give you his arm. Faltering over words made him listen more closely, his eyes drawn to your lips. Weakness was more enticing than any seduction.' (p122)

Lynet, however, is made to look like her "mother"; her beauty - her face - is not her own, it's that of a dead woman, and so she is at odds with her beauty. Yes, she is beautiful, but her beauty isn't hers, and there's so much pressure that comes with it. One uses her beauty to her advantage, while people have expectations of the other because of her beauty.

I could be reading too much into it, but the story also seems to be saying something about being made, or shaped. Society tells women who they should and shouldn't be, how we should and shouldn't behave, what we are to expect or not expect. "This is who and what you are," society tells women. "This is who we allow you to be." We see this in how Mina is treated by her unloving father who created for her a heart of glass, and in how King Nicholas had Lynet made to be another Emilia. Are you what makes you, or do you have a say over who you are?

The romances in Girls Made of Glass are as simple as breathing for Lynet, if a very slow burn and confusing, and complex for Mina, because of what she believes. When a new surgeon, Nadia, comes to Whitespring, Lynet is attracted to her almost instantly. But she doesn't recognise it as attraction. She doesn't know about same sex attraction, because she's never seen it or heard of it. So her feelings are overwhelming and confusing, when she thinks of Nadia as a friend. They have themselves a moment or two, but Lynet doesn't know what they mean, nor why she's blushing and feels awkward around Nadia. It's such a slow burner, but it's beautiful and sweet, and I completely adored their romance. But with Mina... Mina could never truly be loved by King Nicholas for herself, because she was very rarely herself when trying to woo him. And then she's not loved by him anyway, as he's obsessed with a ghost. And yet love comes from an unexpected source. I don't want to spoil things, but it links back to whether you are what you are made, or whether you have any control over who you are and who you love, in more ways than one.

I absolutely adored Girls Made of Snow and Glass. It's such an incredible story, and a wonderful retelling! It's heartbreaking, and hopeful, and just so beautiful. And I'm so looking forward to Bashardoust's as yet untitled second novel, coming out sometime later this year, a retelling mash up of Sleeping Beauty, Rappaccini's Daughter and Persian/Zoroastrian mythology, about a princess who is poisonous to the touch. I'll pretty much read whatever Bashardoust writes from now on, Girls Made of Snow and Glass was that good. I can't recommend this enough!

You may also like:

Drown by Esther Dalseno A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer Sea Witch by Sarah Henning Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Over to you graphic

What are you favourite fairy tales? Do you have any favourite retellings of them? Can you recommend me any other retellings that have a strong high fantasy feel? Have you read Girls Made of Snow and Glass? Will you be reading it now? Let me know all in the comments!

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1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I couldn't get into it, but after reading your review, I'm thinking "Wow, this sounds like a cool book", haha.

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