Title: Stealing Snow
Author: Danielle Paige
Genre: YA / Fantasy
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…
The premise of Stealing Snow really intrigued me and I looked forward to reading it. I enjoyed the first couple of chapters, but the story ultimately fell flat for me. There definitely were glimpses of potential throughout the story, but they were never fully realised and developed.
I didn’t connect with any of the characters. Nope, not a single one. I found the main character, Snow, annoying, and the rest of the cast were very two-dimensional. It felt like each character was there to serve a specific purpose. They all seemed to meet the needs of various tropes, and they didn’t feel like they could be real people at all. It was sort of like, oh there’s the mysteriously powerful witch character, there’s the evil king, there’s the mental asylum oddballs, there’s the sexy guy who we don’t know if we can trust or not. They all felt clichéd and dull. I honestly just didn’t get enough out of any of the characters to actually care about whether or not Snow ended up rescuing Bale (which is mean, I know, especially considering that was her main quest).
Speaking of Bale, this leads me on to my next point which obviously has to be about the love square. Yes, you read that right, there is not a love triangle in Stealing Snow, but a love square. Do I even need to say any more? Snow is desperately trying to find Bale, who she is oh-so-deeply in love with. But she also happens to find the time to not only learn how to control her magic snow powers, join a band of robbers and take on the evil King, but also to kiss / fall in love with two other guys; Kai and Jagger. FOCUS, GIRL! I’m not going to say much more on the love square thing, but I’m going to leave you with a cringe-worthy quote from Jagger that almost made me put down the book; ‘A life without kissing is no life at all’.
The next big point I want to make is that I really don’t like the way that mental illness is portrayed in this book. We start the story locked inside the Whittaker Institute, which is a high-security mental hospital. We only know that Snow has been inside the institute since she was SIX YEARS OLD because, as a child, she tried to walk through a mirror. Straight-up I thought that this was weird, because I don’t think something like that warrants being locked away for eleven + years.
The scenes in the institute are very typical, we get the cocktail of pills (and subsequent medicine-shaming), the strange array of characters, the orderlies, the weird dreams and the drawings. We learn that basically the only strange thing about Snow is that she has a thing for biting people who make her angry. As soon as she escapes the institute and goes to Algid, any traces of her having a mental illness completely disappears, and we get that sense that it was all just inside her head or made up .
I guess in the end the point was meant to be that Snow was locked inside the asylum so that her powers would be dulled down so that she would be out of the King’s way until it was time for the prophecy to be fulfilled. But it sort of came across as cheap shots being fired against mental illness and medication. The characters in the asylum felt so clichéd that it was a bit painful to read. The fact that the chapters inside the Whittaker Institute were amongst my favourite chapters in the book will tell you how I felt about the rest of Stealing Snow.
Another big issue for me was that there was nothing in the world-building that caused me to suspend my disbelief. I never got a strong sense of exactly what Algid was like. Whenever something magical happened, like the appearance of Snow Wolves or pink penguins or Snow Claws, I just didn’t believe it. It was kind like, ‘oh right, now this is happening. Sure’.
For me, there needed to be more scene-setting, more character-development, and less cringey internal/external dialogue. Snow spent so much time explaining things that should have been obvious through world-building or characterisation. As a reader, clear-cut explanations of EVERYTHING are not what I want. Show don’t tell tends to pays off, especially in fantasy world-building.
Overall, Stealing Snow really just didn’t work for me. I wish I didn’t have to say that because I was honestly super excited by the story when I first started reading it. Unfortunately it just didn’t have the right amount of world-building and characterisation for me to be able to delve into the world of Algid, and I spent most of my time feeling very disconnected and disinterested in what was happening to the characters. In saying that, I am sure that some people will love this book, but it just wasn’t right for me.