Review: White as Frost

I received White as Frost by Anthea Sharp as part of a neat promotion I signed up for called BOMYA which allows you to receive free YA fantasy novels in your inbox every month. It sounded too good to be true at first, but it does exactly what it says! This was the second book I received from this mailing list and the first one that I decided to read because it pitched princess protagonists. Though not advertised as such, I quickly recognized it as a retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red," a fairy tale that few people know of and even adapt faithfully, often combining it with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" for the sake of familiarity. I liked that this book paid loyal tribute to the lesser-known story, but as the first in a trilogy, it suffered from the same issue as many other books do that are meant to introduce a series in that nothing felt resolved at the end.

White as Frost tells the story of Rosaline, who is the alter ego of Rose Red from the "Snow White and Rose Red" fairy tale. Her mother marries a king, which grants her a new stepsister in Princess Neeve, this book's iteration of Snow White. The two don't get along at first, but for different reasons than Sofia and Amber. Instead of being downright spiteful toward Rose, Neeve is closed off and emotionless, refusing to answer even the most basic questions about herself and her interests. Rose finds this frustrating and takes it as a challenge to get to know her new stepsister better. In doing so, she discovers a magical hidden forest called the Darkwood and enters a pact of secrecy between Neeve and Thorne, the forest's guardian. Rose is immediately attracted to Thorne, though it is never confirmed in this book whether her feelings toward him are requited though he is kind to her.

What I liked most about this book is how it borrowed elements from the "Snow White and Rose Red" fairy tale to the point where I recognized it as an adaptation right away. Other adaptations tend to take great liberties with this story and think it's enough to focus on a relationship between the two sisters without including any other similarities. Like her fairy tale counterpart, Rose is rescued by a bear at the beginning of the story, though it is never made clear if the bear is actually Thorne in disguise or a different character that might appear later in the trilogy. It also includes all of the scenes where she must snip the beard of a dwarf with a pair of scissors to free him from peril. In this case, the dwarfs are referred to as "hobnies," magical creatures who live in the Darkwood. It does not, however, include the happy ending from the fairy tale since it is the first book in a trilogy, which brings me to my biggest complaint.

This book did not leave me feeling satisfied in any way. It was a strong beginning to a story, but it went nowhere with a clear intent to push readers into buying the next book. It can be difficult to write a series with enough taking place in each individual book to satisfy a reader and end in a way that makes them want more. One of the best books I've read that accomplishes this flawlessly is A Kingdom Submerged by Deborah Grace White, which provides a suspenseful and satisfying adventure that ends on a big cliffhanger that made me scramble to get the next book. Here, I felt like there wasn't enough happening to care about the rest of the trilogy. Any romance in the book was barely implied, and I couldn't tell what the stakes were for either of the sisters. I know Neeve was bitter about her fate being tied to the Darkwood while having to live in the human world, but it didn't seem like she or Rose were in any immediate danger. It just kind of ended.

I have a lot of respect for White as Frost for faithfully retelling "Snow White and Rose Red," but I couldn't get into it as a trilogy. There wasn't enough that happened to make me want to know more. The characters have a lot of potential. I was intrigued by Rose's desire to break through Neeve's shell and get to know her as a sister as well as her curiosity about magic and if she could ever stand a chance with a magical being such as Thorne. The book has some fantastic worldbuilding, but it needs more substance when it comes to the plot. I didn't feel like I had read a complete story when I reached the end of this book.


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