Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Ice Queen - Alice Hoffman

Rated: A

The Ice Queen: A Novel

Be careful what you wish for. A small town librarian lives a quiet life without much excitement. One day, she mutters an idle wish and, while standing in her house, is struck by lightning. But instead of ending her life, this cataclysmic event sparks it into a new beginning.
She goes in search of Lazarus Jones, a fellow survivor who was struck dead, then simply got up and walked away. Perhaps this stranger who has seen death face to face can teach her to live without fear. When she finds him, he is her opposite, a burning man whose breath can boil water and whose touch scorches. As an obsessive love affair begins between them, both are forced to hide their most dangerous secrets--what turned one to ice and the other to fire.


I have read a few of Alice Hoffman's books before, and each time I am shocked by how beautifully she writes. For some reason it catches me by surprise in every novel without fail. That said, I think this is my favourite novel so far. Hoffman's prose is...indescribable. It is delicate and beautiful, yet paints a graphic, detailed picture in the reader's mind. The story is part fairy tale, part real life. And, as the main character references, this is definitely a Grimm's Brothers fairy tale. At one moment tragic, the next redemptive, this book encompasses everything one could ever want in a novel. It is realistic, yet supernatural. It is tragic...yet leaves you feeling uplifted at the end of the novel. I always find it hardest to accurately describe the novels that have the hugest impact on me. Words simply become inadequate.

Another reason why I love this book? I didn't even realize it til writing this review - the main character remains nameless the whole book. It in no way distracts from the story - it only adds emphasis to her first 30 or so years of trying to disappear into the background.

My only criticism? I could not figure out how she found out the truth about her mother. Did Ned tell her? When? I also had difficulty understanding how attached she was to her grandmother given her wish to keep everyone, including family, at an arms length away. I also wish the book had been longer - it spent very little time on the resolution. I would have liked more time with Ned and finding out how her lover (I don't want to spoil the ending with names) came back into the picture.


I am too easily entranced by fairy tales and beautiful prose. I am not sure I would love this in a reread, but perhaps because I only read the novel a week ago, the impact is still fresh in my mind. I really loved this novel and the journey it took me on.


I wouldn't recommend this for everyone. In fact...I'm not entirely sure who to recommend it to. People like me who love anything related to a fairy tale, anyone who loves good literature. Because of the themes of the story, its possible readers of Jodi Piccoult will enjoy this, although the approach and writing styles are completely different.

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