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Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew


by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

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4115396,868 (3.41)2
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    Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For reinterpreted fairy tales.

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I wavered between a three and four star rating but ultimately went with four because this book is beautifully written with intriguing characters, innovative magic systems, political intrigue, and lots of queer people kissing.

I think my biggest issues were mostly with the abrupt ending but I suppose that can 100% be forgiven, especially if there will be more books in this series. I also felt the tournament aspect of the book was unnecessary; none of the characters even seemed to care about it all that much, especially once it was pretty much clear who'd win. But there are my own issues I guess and other readers may look at it differently.

Worldbuilding is a complex thing with many, many facets. But one thing I appreciate in worldbuilding is respect for the reader. What I mean by this is an author who respects their readers knows they don't need to spend pages and pages and pages explaining how or why their world works. If the foundation is there then added explanations just end up sounding patronizing. To enjoy this book I didn't really need to know how ghosts can be used for energy, or how statues can produce massive destructive forcefields. It's enough that these elements are seamlessly integrated into the narrative and in this book, they were.

I did feel however that there was A LOT going on in a very short space and some of the elements could've been removed, making the narrative stronger, pulling it tighter together. I LOVED how much queerness there is in this book....in fact I don't think any of the characters were heterosexual tbh WHICH IS MY FAVORITE THING. I love how this book has characters of all sorts of genders as a natural part of its world and I loved reading all the very different and very real queer relationships between characters. For that alone this book is worth reading if you are a queer fan of SFF.

The author addresses colonial narratives in an incredibly innovative way, especially in relation to memory, nature, and symbolism. We need more authors of color writing about colonialism and decolonization and this is a great example of how it can be done well.

Though there were some structural issues and the ending may leave some unsatisfied (especially with quite a few Chekov's guns that were not fired) I would recommend this book wholeheartedly. I hope the author will write more about this world and these characters because I love all the concepts introduced and would love to know what happens next. ( )
  ElleGato | Sep 27, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am torn asunder over how to compose this review as I try not to let my opinions on one thing affect my opinions on the other. So, I think what’s best is to talk about Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew itself first, solely as the ink on the pages it is printed, and then I’ll talk about what has made me wary.

Winterglass has an AMAZING cover. I don’t remember when I last saw a cover that breathtakingly gorgeous. Then, we have the story itself for which I was so grateful. An actual #OwnVoices book in more ways than one, and it definitely feels true to itself. Winterglass is a twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, but uniquely so in that it barely feels the story we all heard as children (or adults).

I think all of the characters are on the LGBTIQA+ spectrum which was SO FANTASTIC FOR ME! I mean, I think this is the first time? I’ve seen someone like me in a fantasy setting (I’m agender, and I think we had a nonbinary so it was close enough!) The author used ey/em/eir for a character which had me over the moon. That said, I could understand how a reader that doesn’t know, that isn’t part of the spectrum and maybe can’t ‘keep up’ with it, they could have a hard time following and understanding. I know for a part I too was confused wondering whether a character was trans. It didn’t matter to me, their gender, but it mattered why other characters would use typical male titles to address her whereas she addresses herself in the feminine. I wanted to know if they were slighting her, if they didn’t understand.

We also have the crux of the story. A cold and bitter winter has forced its way where it does not belong, and with that, forced its culture and point of view. Such an amazing metaphor for western colonization and how it tries to destroy everything it comes into contact with. The Winter Queen taking over warm lands that were reminiscent of Thailand and southeast Asia. Then, just like western colonization, the Winter Queen doesn’t just destroy the environment but is insidious enough to infect the inhabitants. She doesn’t just want to own them, she wants them to love her even as she destroys their people. It’s amazing.

Through all this, the protagonist of Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew is Nuawa, a survivor of the Winter Queen’s cruelty. She was raised to be a weapon by her one surviving mother and acts with only this in mind. Unlike other female fantasy protagonists, Nuawa is determined and she isn’t looking for love. She isn’t looking for a new family. She is existing only to bring down the Winter Queen and restore her people. Yes, she may find sex, but it doesn’t translate into love and loyalty.

One of the downsides to Winterglass is that it is too short. As such, Sriduangkaew tries to fit as much as possible into the story. While this creates a fully fleshed world, it remains a fully fleshed world we have no knowledge about. There was so much that I had no idea what it was about. Ghost kilns and weird creatures, medicine, etc. Yes, I understand it wouldn’t need explaining since to the protagonist it’s all everyday part of life, but for me, an alien reader, I need to have some sort of solid footage.

Now, with everything that I loved, why was I on the fence about this review? Why did I give it three and a half stars? After finishing this book, I googled the book and the author because I wanted to read more. Maybe a sequel or maybe other things by this author. That is when I learned about the author’s controversial activities, to the say the least. I don’t want to talk about it here, and I do believe everyone is entitled to grow and learn and change for the better. But, at the same time, it extremely disheartening to discover someone that could be a beacon in the community, where us marginalized populations could rally behind and push ahead, especially in a field as white and straight as fantasy, YA fantasy, is actually displaying the worst of us to others and picking on our own people. I understand that one thing should not impact another, but it does and it did for me. Would I read a follow-up to Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew? Probably. Most likely. Would I go out of my way to recommend her to others? Not without warning them.

// I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title. // ( )
1 vote heylu | Jul 13, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A beautiful cover, and an intriguing summary/description had me SO excited to read this! Unfortunately, for me this book didn't live up to its full potential. While most authors over-explain or give too much detail right off the bat, I feel like this story could use a whole lot more world-building in the first couple of chapters, and honestly just needed more written throughout the story for the story to be more enjoyable. I was also unfamiliar with the fairy-tale upon which is based, which may have hindered my reading (although I'm of the opinion that it should be able to be read as a stand-alone book, so take that for what you will). Overall, I liked it, but by no means loved it. ( )
  beerankin | Mar 28, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I've been a passionate fan of fairy-tale retellings since first encountering Lee, Yolen, Datlow, and Windling in the 90s and I'm actively trying to read more works with an LGBT focus. But, in a classic 'it's not you, it's me' situation, I didn't enjoy Winterglass nearly as much as I had hoped -- Sriduangkaew seems to be one of those authors who possesses a tremendous skill at wordplay but has less interest in plotting and worldbuilding, and as a reader I'm attracted to pretty much the reverse. Fans of Catherynne M. Valente would probably be a good match for this book. I'd rather go reread Kingfisher's take on this fairy tale, The Raven and the Reindeer.

Two stars.

I do also note that Apex Publishing is continuing to knock it out of the park with their gorgeous cover designs. The Winterglass cover is particularly lovely.
  MyriadBooks | Feb 26, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An intriguing story line with lots of interesting elements. Unfortunately, the style of the writing did not appeal to me; it was a bit flowery and vague. At the end of the book, I felt like a had read a teaser for a bigger series, in which things needed to be fleshed out a bit more. ( )
1 vote SimoneA | Feb 6, 2018 |
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