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The Snow Queen
Eileen Kernaghan
Thistledown Press, 158 pages

Eileen Kernaghan
Eileen Kernaghan was born and raised in British Columbia's North Okanagan Valley. Currently living in New Westminster, she has, over the last 36 years, worked as a freelance writer and a writing instructor for various arts centres, adult education departments, schools and libraries. Her award winning Grey Isles trilogy is set in bronze age Europe and is based on the origins of Stonehenge. Journey to Aprilioth (1980) won the silver "Porgy" Award for original paperback fiction from the West Coast Review of Books. Songs from the Drowned Lands (1983) won the 1983/84 Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award, while the last book of the series, The Sarsen Witch was shortlisted for the same award. Dance of the Snow Dragon, a young adult fantasy novel with a Tibetan Buddhist background, was published in 1995 by Thistledown Press. Kernaghan's poems and short stories have appeared in PRISM international, OnSpec, Tesseracts, TransVersions, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Northern Stars, and Ark of Ice: Canadian Future Fictions. Her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling Award, and she is one-fifth of the poetry group Quintet, who recently published their first collection, Quintet: Themes and Variations.

The Snow Queen won an Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English.

Eileen Kernaghan Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Snow Queen
E-TEXT - Poetry: "Re-incarnate"
Interview: "Road to Shambhala"

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

The Snow Queen Eileen Kernaghan's lovely retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, The Snow Queen is a very hard book to peg. It's not exactly a novel -- it truly is a fairy tale. It's classified as Young Adult and could be read and enjoyed by children, but much of its depth will only be appreciated by adults.

Gerda leads a comfortable, sheltered life in Victorian Denmark, but her world is turned upside-down when her boyfriend, Kai, is ensnared by a powerful sorceress. None of the adults seem to understand the danger or be willing to pursue the Snow Queen and rescue Kai, so she sets out by herself -- naive and utterly unprepared for the rugged trip ahead.

After being robbed and captured by Saami bandits in northern Sweden, Gerda finds an unlikely ally in Ritva, an angry young Saami tribeswoman, rebelling against the expectation that she must become the local shaman, like her mother before her. Despite their differences, Ritva and Gerda embark on a quest to defeat the Snow Queen in her icy northern lair.

I only vaguely remembered the original Anderson story from childhood, so I decided to reread it for this book review, and let me tell you, it's AWFUL. Anderson was stickily sentimental, sexist, racist, trite, and brimming over with priggish Christian morality.

In contrast, Kernaghan takes the bones of the original fantasy and adds real period detail and strong characterization to create a vividly textured story. (My favourite character was Ba -- Ritva's gaunt, elderly reindeer, who plods along with morose loyalty under the burden of their gear.) Kernaghan's prose sounds deceptively simple, but she has chosen each word with great care.

I liked this book and I loved the ending. I won't spoil it for you, but TAKE THAT, Hans Christian!

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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