Review: Mirrors of Ice

Mirrors of Ice was one of the many promotional sales from National Fairy Tell a Fairy Tale Day. I decided to check it out since I had already read the first and third books in this series. Celeste Baxdendell is not the kind of author you should turn to if you are looking for a quick fairy tale fix. Her Bewitching Fairy Tales series is long, detailed, and often quite dark. However, if you have some time on your hands and are looking to be fully immersed in a fleshed-out fantasy world packed with references to multiple fairy tales, this is a good series to check out. Mirrors of Ice is the second entry in this series and works just as well as a standalone book as it does an expansion to the world that was built in the other books. It is a combination of "The Snow Queen" and "Snow White" and cleverly addresses elements of both fairy tales that I rarely see in other adaptations, which secures its place as my favorite book in the Bewitching Fairy Tales series thus far.

Mirrors of Ice by Celeste Baxendell

Mirrors of Ice had a confusing start for me. It felt like it was up to the reader to deduce that the heroine, Eirwen, was trying to avoid a huntsman named Chasen at a royal ball because her stepmother (who is also her aunt) was trying to kill her. Of course, knowing that "Snow White" is one of the fairy tales that inspired this story certainly helps with that, but the description of these plot points in the first chapter of the narrative of this particular book was a bit murky. I also wasn't too sure how Prince Sterling, a guest at the ball, caught on to Eirwen's plight as quickly as he did. Most of this was cleared up later, though. Each chapter became increasingly more enticing than the last as the layers of Eirwen and Sterling's personalities were slowly stripped away to reveal their true selves. The second half of the book more than makes up for the shortcomings of the first half.

"The Snow Queen" plays an important role in the plot of Mirrors of Ice. It draws a lot more from the original Hans Christian Andersen story than Disney's Frozen, but there are a few elements specific to Frozen near the end, namely the concept of people turning to ice. Eirwen's aunt, Isolde, plays the roles of both the evil stepmother from "Snow White" and the "Snow Queen" herself, a fitting combination considering that both women are as cold as ice. As her niece, Eirwen inherits some of her ice powers, an ability that she uses to her advantage at several key points throughout the book. Like Kay in the original fairy tale, Prince Sterling is cursed by a magic mirror to only see the ugliness in the world with the exception of ice magic. Luckily for him, this draws him to Eirwen, who is determined to break his curse as she seeks refuge with his royal siblings in their castle. I thought it was quite original to change Snow White's refuge from a cottage of seven dwarfs to a castle of seven royal siblings.

My favorite thing about this book is the love story, which is something that I felt was lacking in the other two books that I read from this series. Sterling's curse made him more observant to Eirwen's plight and feelings, which makes him the perfect person to protect her from Isolde. Likewise, Eirwen's selfless desire to help everyone she meets makes her the perfect candidate to break Sterling's curse. The two learn more about each other over the course of the book and grow closer at a refreshingly realistic pace. Sterling's brother, King Besart, hires Eirwen to try to break Sterling's curse, which gives her an opportunity to live in the castle and learn more about Sterling's troubled relationship with his family. As a result, she learns how to care for and support him in a way that his own family had failed to.

Mirrors of Ice is a heavy story that will melt your heart over the course of reading it. I enjoyed the clever references to "The Snow Queen," a story that has rarely been done justice in popular media. The "Snow White" influences were also nearly woven in without feeling forced. At its core, this book is a love story between two characters who are misunderstood by most of the people in their lives and have the compassion and patience to find their true selves. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking to be fully immersed in a fantasy world and has the time and energy to fully appreciate its detailed setting. This book also made me more eager to read the newest edition to Betwitching Fairy Tales, Cinders of Glass.


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