Joan (Carol) D(ennison) Vinge James Gunn - Essay

James Gunn

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Snow Queen] has a complicated plot, whose complications—unfortunately for the success of the novel—unfold so deliberately that its final shape is clear only in retrospect. Moon Dawntreader, the protagonist, is a young woman born to fisherfolk of the Summer people. She is in love with her cousin, Sparks. Both were conceived at the last Festival in Carbuncle. Moon, though she does not know it, is the clone of Arienrhod, the Snow Queen of the title, who rules the Winter stage of Tiamat and has prolonged her life through the slaughter of the gentle, immortal Mers and now hopes to prolong her reign, even after her death in the ritual that marks the coming of summer, by making her clone the Summer Queen…. The novel aims at the inevitability of myth, but the author … does not seem to appreciate that the myth must be established early so that the reader can follow its working out.

The long (536 pages) novel is rich with character, color and invention …, but the book is not as good as the sum of its parts. It's as if the author knows the words but not the tune. This reader, at least, felt unmoved by the characters and their fates; I didn't care what happened to any of them. The source of that indifference, I believe, lies in the manner in which events simply happen to the characters: they don't purpose anything, with the exception of Arienrhod, whose plans are frustrated, in the end, with surprising suddenness and ease.

James Gunn, in a review of "The Snow Queen," in Book World—The Washington Post, May 25, 1980, p. 8.