Kai and Ginny grew up together–best friends since they could toddle around their building’s rooftop rose garden. Now they’re seventeen, and their relationship has developed into something sweeter, complete with stolen kisses and plans to someday run away together.
But one night, Kai disappears with a mysterious stranger named Mora–a beautiful girl with a dark past and a heart of ice. Refusing to be cast aside, Ginny goes after them and is thrust into a world she never imagined, one filled with monsters and thieves and the idea that love is not enough.
If Ginny and Kai survive the journey, will she still be the girl he loved–and moreover, will she still be the girl who loved him?
Tell Me More: As familiarity with fairytales go, I will admit that “The Snow Queen” was not one that I grew up with. I first encountered Gerda’s story when I was a teenager, and while I enjoyed it, the tale did not capture me completely. Jackson Pearce’s take, however, is quite a different story. Cold Spell retains the subtle darkness of her previous fairytale retellings, while holding its own with a creative and passionate interpretation of the original themes.
My biggest fear at the beginning of this story was that the romance would overshadow Ginny’s character growth. Partial as I am to the childhood-friends-fall-in-love trope, I hoped that Cold Spell would remain true to the focus on its female characters. Overall, I was pleased with Ginny’s development: she learns to recognize herself as an individual, with hopes and dreams and talents separate from Kai and what he brings to her life. Some readers may be frustrated by how she seems so focused on saving Kai and being with Kai, but I think it’s also important to remember that she’s sixteen years old and the things that were important to us at that age might not always make sense after the fact. She’s in love (more cynical readers might say she thinks she’s in love), but the fact remains that Kai is someone who inspires action and passion in her. Inspiring girls to action is important, and the best thing about Cold Spell is that Ginny is in the driver’s seat. She holds the real power in the story, and it is her actions that influence it most. At the end of the day, she is not defined by her love for Kai, but made stronger for it.
Being defined by love and the various results thereof is itself a theme that Pearce explores in Cold Spell. The Snow Queen, readers are told, steals boys away and makes them love her. Ginny has only ever thought of her future in terms of Kai, and so when he is stolen away, she can’t quite get her balance back. Mora is selfish, borne out of a desire to be loved, and Ginny is lost, having depended on someone else to steady her identity. Both ladies make very different decisions, for very different reasons. Mora doesn’t understand love anymore, and so she continues on her destructive path. Ginny, on the other hand, faces the person she is without Kai and discovers that there is a strong girl who doesn’t need Kai, but chooses to love him anyway. She understands that love is selfless and chooses to save Kai no matter what, even if he doesn’t want to be with her anymore. Even if Ginny doesn’t like Kai’s grandmother’s opinion of her, Ginny makes the same decision she does, for love. Granted, this might still be a very idealized way of looking at relationships, but what do we have if we don’t have ideals to aspire to? Ginny stumbles, to be sure, but she is growing and learning about how people love and what love can do.
While I enjoyed the thematic development in the story, there were some aspects that weren’t as fulfilling. Mora’s interactions with Kai will induce shudders, but I do wish that her backstory had been explored a little more. I don’t need every single detail, but a few more breadcrumbs would have strengthened the impact of finding out the reasons behind her choices. There were points that I felt like there was almost too much information about certain characters, but not nearly enough time spent on the villains of the actual story. The mythology that Pearce has built into this series feels lackluster in this installment compared to Sisters Red and Sweetly, and again, I would have loved to know more about the Fenris and their motives.
The Final Say: Cold Spell succeeds in the realization of a female character that finds her strength in relationships and love, without being painted as boy-crazy or weak. While the mythology is drawn in broad strokes, the heart of the story remains, and will please readers of Pearce’s Fairytale series, as well as those new to YA fantasy.
Jackson Pearce currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with a slightly cross-eyed cat and a lot of secondhand furniture. She recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in English and a minor in Philosophy and currently works for a software company even though she auditioned for the circus (she juggled and twirled fire batons, but they still didn’t want her). Other jobs she’s had include obituaries writer, biker bar waitress, and receptionist.
In addition, Jackson coaches both colorguard and winterguard at a local high school; she’s taught over four hundred students since starting seven years ago. Coaching provides the greatest “research” for writing YA that she could ever ask for and has introduced her to some of the most unique characters she’s ever met.
Jackson began writing when she got angry that the school librarian couldn’t tell her of a book that contained a smart girl, horses, baby animals, and magic. Her solution was to write the book herself when she was twelve. Her parents thought it was cute at first, but have grown steadily more concerned for her ever since.