CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 19 . . . . May 25, 2001
"Looking back, years afterwards, she thought she could name the day, the hour - almost the exact moment - when things began to go wrong...Eileen Kernaghan reworks Hans Christian Andersen's classic story, The Snow Queen. The novel opens with the main characters of the novel, Kai and Gerda. Readers are immediately made aware that this childhood friendship has changed. From the opening prologue, readers see that Kai has moved beyond his childhood relationship with Gerda. The next scene introduces Ritva and her world of robbers and thieves. The chapters that follow alternately focus on Gerda and Ritva. Two stories simultaneous unfold until the paths of these two young women cross. Gerda, in her quest to rescue Kai and while traveling to Sweden and the home of the Baroness Aurore, is robbed by Ritva's father. It is only as a result of Ritva's interference that Gerda's life is spared. The two very different girls become companions and decide to travel together to rescue Kai.
Eileen Kernaghan has adapted Andersen's story well and stays close to the original tale. Some of the liberties she has taken revolve around the spelling of Kai's name, originally appearing in Andersen's story as Kay, and the omission of the wicked hobgoblin who cast the spell on the looking glass in the original story. In terms of characters, Kernaghan does a good job in developing Gerda and Ritva's characters. These are two very different young girls on the brink of becoming women. The challenges that each faces and the way that they handle these challenges show their inner strengths. Information on Kai's character comes from Gerda and her memories. When readers do finally meet Kai for the second time, they are left wondering if he is worth such a sacrifice. Ritva seems to agree as she questions Gerda: "To follow him to the world's end. And Kai? Did he love you as much as that? If the Snow Queen had stolen you, little rabbit, would your Kai have set out across the frozen seas to save you?" The journey to save Kai from the Snow Queen is deeper than one friend helping another out of a tough situation. It is a quest to find out the meaning of true friendship and a test of the binds of friendship. It also is a journey of self discovery as both Ritva and Gerda find their own strengths and weaknesses. The only question that the novel raises is how Gerda managed to pull off this adventure. It is easy to accept that Ritva could easily leave her family and take part in this journey, but for Gerda to do the same seems unbelievable. Perhaps this is the reason that Kernaghan had Gerda and Ritva pair up. The only other question then is, how did two young girls manage to find their way to Kai and save the day? An interesting tale.
Christina Pike is an English teacher and Resource Person at Ascension Collegiate, Bay Roberts, NF.
The Snow Queen was the winner of the 2001 Prix Aurora Award presented by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association in the category of "best long-form work in English."
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