A long time ago, when fairy tales still had a way of being true, the world was a different kind of place: A wish could be a dangerous thing when uttered with a curse. The North Wind could touch a child and change them forever. True love, and true friendship, really could fix everything on the path to happily ever after in Winter’s Child (2009) by Cameron Dokey.
In this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” the titular character begins as a child with a destiny she never would have chosen for herself. Touched as a child by the North Wind, she is a Winter Child. Her features bleached to a wintry paleness, she will not feel the cold or age a day past her sixteenth birthday until she can change her fate. Until she can mend that hearts that were scarred when her mother’s mirror shattered on the day she became a Winter Child.
Her journey will take this Winter Child across the world and will last many years. It will also bring her to two adjacent buildings that slant toward each other where two children live peacefully until their own sixteenth year when everything changes.
Free-spirited Grace and practical Kai have been friends forever. Still, when Kai asks her to marry him Grace cannot bring herself to accept no matter how much she knows they love each other. Grace dreams of adventures beyond the horizon while Kai seems firmly grounded their small lives in the small town.
All the same, it is Kai who leaves Grace behind for his own adventure following the Winter Child on an unnaturally cold day. Left alone, Grace finally begins to understand what she has lost and sets out to find Kai–beginning a journey that will change all three character’s lives.
Winter’s Child is a really fast, fairly light book–both in terms of weight and the writing. The story is broken up into ten tales and reads very much like a story from the oral fairy tale tradition. Grace, Kai, and even the Winter Child all take turns narrating the story and adding their own commentary to its events. Unfortunately, their voices are not quite distinct enough to make each character’s narration feel unique.
Dokey takes a story that many readers will recognize and retells it in a new, engaging manner. In fact a lot of the fundamental flaws in the original (a very devout, Christian tale) are handled in a more sensible way here. Even seeing the Winter Child/Snow Queen in a more balanced, less evil, light was really great. Still, the ending of the story seemed abrupt and a bit pat. In trying to add her own spin to the ending, Dokey unfortunately created a conclusion to Winter’s Child that ultimately felt unsatisfactory and ill-fitting with other aspects of the story.