Home > Book Reviews > Book Review: The Snow Queen by: Joan D. Vinge

Book Review: The Snow Queen by: Joan D. Vinge


The Snow Queen was released in 1980, but since I was just eight at the time, I never read it before now. It was never on my reading list because, frankly, I never had anyone recommend it as something that I should read. But, several months ago I came across it and added it to my pile of books to read.

The science fiction novel takes place on the worlds ruled by the Hegemony. In particular, one called Tiamat. The natives of this world are kept in a relative state of technological limbo by the Hegemony with technology only existing on the world during the reign of the “Winters” when the planet is able to be accessed through interstellar travel. When the gates close and the “Summers” take over, all technology is removed from the planet or destroyed until the gate reopens, and the “Winters” regain control.

The novel follows the story of Moon Dawntreader Summer, a Sibyl and keeper of ancient knowledge. The reign of the Arienrhod, the current Winter Queen, is at an end after 150 years. After she is picked to become a Sibyl and Moon’s lover,Sparks, is not and the two part ways. Sparksmakes his way to Carbuncle, while Moon is essentially kidnapped and taken off world, making her an outlaw if she ever returns. While off world, Moon learns that, as a Sibyl, she is an access point for people to ask questions of an intergalactic supercomputer to which she is linked.

Arienrhod, whoSparkslearns Moon is a clone of, created to extend the current Winter Queen’s rule, ensnares him. He becomes her lover, aka Starbuck, and takes over the role of harvesting the water of life from creatures known as mers. The elixir is what keeps Arienrhod from aging and is highly prized in the Hegemony.

Moon eventually returns to Tiamat, uses her powers as a Sibyl to become the Summer Queen, and reunites withSparks. She plans to use her powers to bring Tiamat out of the Stone Age once the Hegemony has left for the coming cycle. The end.

This book won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1981 and was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1980. Honestly, I don’t know why. And after reading it, I realized why it had never been recommended to me by anyone else for a read. Horrible? No. Average? Barely.

Like so many books, this one seems to suffer from pointless point of view characters thrown in when you really want to follow the main characters: Moon,Sparks, and Areinrhod. Tor Starhiker Winter, for one, just seems so irrelevant to the story that I don’t know why there were points where we had to see things through her eyes. Jerusha, for another example, felt so insignificant that I don’t even know why she got promoted to point of view character at times.

As for the way the book ended, well, I’ve struggled to find an applicable analogy. Think of it like making love to a woman and having her fake an orgasm after a lot of hard work. Crude? Maybe. But a clear way of envisioning how the story just never got to a climax and then petered out in the end after trying to make you believe that it had.

While the prose is good and clean, the world building lush, and while the story itself when stepped back from wants to intrigue the reader, it simply fails to do so. I was able to finish, but it was a struggle. I rate The Snow Queen at a below average 2.75 out of 5 stars. Sorry. Just didn’t do it for me. As always, other opinions may vary. You’re entitled to yours, so allow me to have mine.

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