Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
I’ve had The Raven and the Reindeer on my tbr since the dawn of time (read: 2016), and I’m not sure why I put it off for so long, but either way, I bought it for my vacation last week. I ended up reading it on the plane and in Yosemite, and I was surprised at how much I loved it—a beautifully immersive and queer retelling of “The Snow Queen”!
Enjoy this week’s review!
Gerta has grown up with tales told to her by her grandmother—tales of characters like the Snow Queen, a merciless, inhuman being who steals away children in the dead of winter. What Gerta never realized was that the Snow Queen is real all this time.
When her best friend Kay is stolen by the Snow Queen in the night, Gerta sets off on a quest across the frozen wilderness, determined to rescue him. But along the way, she realizes that the true meaning of her journey is far from what she thought it would be—and filled with unimaginable dangers.
TW/CW: animal death, violence, descriptions of corpses, freezing to death, descriptions of blood/animal skinning
the “not-like-other-girls” complex to queer awakening pipeline is real and this book is proof. I’ve lived it 💀
It’s been ages since I’ve read a fairytale retelling quite this wonderful! I came in with no expectations, and close to everything about it blew me away, from Kingfisher’s wry but tender writing style to Gerta’s endearing quest to save her friend.
I haven’t read any of Ursula Vernon’s T. Kingfisher books (the last book of hers I read was Castle Hangnail and that was…oh, seven years ago? remains iconic to this day), so this was my first introduction to her more YA/adult writing. And I’ve gotta say, I was blown away by her writing! Kingfisher hits the perfect balance between wry sarcasm and beautiful, immersive prose, which is a hard set to juggle. The humor didn’t feel overpowering, and likewise, the more descriptive prose wasn’t overly purple. It’s the kind of writing style that meshes perfectly with a fairytale, the kind of writing that really makes you feel like you’re experiencing real storytelling.
The Raven and the Reindeer’s characters were just as alluring and endearing! Gerta was a delightful and poignant subversion of a typical fairytale heroine, and she underwent some spectacular development over the course of the novel. (read the first line of the review again—in all seriousness, that’s the development in question, and it’s beautiful to watch.) A character like Mousebones could’ve easily been an infuriating gimmick, but he added just the right amount of levity to a frigid story. Along with them, all of the characters, both human and otherwise, added countless, immersive layers into an expertly-woven fairytale. Plus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Gerta and Janna’s sapphic romance—who doesn’t love queer bandit ladies?
Beyond that, Kingfisher simultaneously subverts this fairytale and brings it back to its roots. There are beautiful metaphors aplenty about reconnecting with nature—and by proxy, your true self. This combination of themes creates a poignant message that I’m sure will resonate with so many readers. Certainly resonated with me. The fact that these themes are present in a queer novel makes them all the more important: denying your true nature is a dangerous thing, so if possible, be the truest self that you can be. (And on a lighter note, don’t go into the frozen wilderness chasing after men, kids. It doesn’t always end well.)
All in all, one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read in recent years—wry and witty, but equally powerful thematically. 4.5 stars!
The Raven and the Reindeer is a standalone novel, but under this pseudonym, T. Kingfisher is also the author of A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, The Seventh Bride, Bryony and Roses, and several other novels. Writing as Ursula Vernon, she is also the author of the Dragonbreath comic series, Castle Hangnail, and more.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!