I had a hard time rating Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis in my mind, yet alone giving you a smooth, comprehensive critique of the story. I’m giving it a official 4 out of 5 because in most systems I can’t really input 3.5 out of 5. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it more than any of the books that I’ve given a 3 out of 5 to, but didn’t exactly love it as much as many that I’ve given a 4 out of 5 rating to.
To be honest, I can’t pinpoint the exact reasons for why I didn’t like it as much as other books I’ve read lately. I mean there are a lot of good reason for why I was attracted to reading this book in the first place. First off it’s a creative space opera retelling of Snow White. As I’ve stated before I enjoy fairy tale retellings, especially if there is a unique twist in the storytelling. Secondly the heroine is techie. If you haven’t noticed yet, I have a soft spot for heroines who shine a positive light on girls/women who are smart, not scared by math, science, or technology, and willing to get their hands dirty (one of the reasons I enjoy Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles). Thirdly… well I think the first two reasons should be enough to pick up a book and read it. Don’t you?
A WriterAlina Book Review
So why did I have such a hard time rating this book? The story was fun and had some interesting twists and turns, and even covered some ground not tread often by adventure stories. The writing was good, the storytelling had all the right points. There was even some interesting point-of-view experimentation; it was jarring at first, but I thought the attempt was fairly successful. I thought the character development was pretty good; even if I did find the heroine a bit more abrasive that I’d like, but that’s one of the things that makes her stand out. The world building felt pretty thought out, all to the point of vernacular that became a little annoying after a while. There were way too many “sniff” references, too many uses of the word “unhinged,” and “aye” why do we want the heroine to sound like a pirate — especially since she’s the only one to says it?
Yeah… I guess I’ll have to just go into more detail about my various internal conflicts over the story.
A Quick Summary
This summary was taken from goodreads.com:
Princess Snow is missing.
Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.
Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.
When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.
The Story and It’s Delivery
Stitching Snow is told in Essie’s the first person perspective and really starts out with a bang. Essie is introduced to us as a fighter, not an elegant fighter like a boxer or a fencer but a “no holds barred” street fighter. If I were a teenager, I’d find this pretty damn coo! But I’m not. And my first thought is how does this seventeen-year-old girl fight and beat down grown men who are generally described as being twice her size? There’s absolutely no explanation for it, I just have to trust in the Force and believe that she miraculously taught herself how to fight and win. Ok. I’m going to overlook this because the girl is smart enough to have a tag along of seven autonomous robots that she programmed herself. That’s pretty cool and I can believe that over being a self trained fighter.
You find out quickly that Essie is alone and has been for eight or nine years now (which means that she’s been on her own since she was nine or ten years old – but apparently she’s had help in various forms in the interim). She’s self-sufficient, clever, misses her dead mother, but is running from a past that is too obviously hidden from the reader (even though this is a first person perspective story). “Things I don’t want to think about.” is a writing trick I will allow to pass for the sake of story tension, but it rankles me that I recognize that it’s a trick. I already know the shadow of what Essie’s running away from (this is Snow White after all), but I’m willing to bite and see if the shadow will become fully formed by the end of the story.
The plot unfolds in exciting and interesting ways, which kept me interested and at least bits of Essie’s past become revealed bit by bit as the story proceeded.
The character development in Stitching Snow was quite good. I felt that the hero and heroine really had distinct, believable personalities and most of the supporting cast had enough personality to distinguish most of them from one another. Their love story was even believable.
I have only two real criticisms of Essie’s character
- Essie’s careless use of “I’m going to kill him” felt fake and annoying. No really, I recognized that she saying she wants to kill Dane wasn’t intended as just some turn of phrase, Essie was supposed to mean it. But it always came across as something for Essie to say to vent her anger, which in the end made her sound petty instead of strong willed or rebellious. But you know her character arch is to learn to trust people, so I guess it’s all right.
- Where did the name Essie come from anyway? Why does she call herself Essie? This is never explained. She has two other “real” names that she avoids using. She constantly thinks of herself as Essie. Why? Especially if she knows both of her real names (another writing trick for the sake of tension). Of course this is my own deal. I find a character’s identity important and if a character chooses an name for him or herself it says something about them as a character.
Moving on… I was a little let down that the 7 robots (the seven dwarf replacement) didn’t actually make that much of an impact in the story, but at least one robot was highlighted in the story. Dimwit, appropriately named in the beginning, ended up be essential and quite a unique character as robot go. Its quirky character shown through its strange communication pattern and its somewhat sporadic logic. I often had the through, “let Dimwit do something important” and I have to admit that I was not disappointed.
I had a problem with the fact that many of the secondary characters (almost all of them in fact) all spoke condescendingly. It was a little off putting, which brought me out of the story. So is everyone supposed to be Essie’s enemy? I guess I could identify with that as a teen, but I can certainly say that most adults were no condescending toward me when I was a teen. (Of course whenever I ever did feel that someone was condescending to me I either ignored them, with some choice colorful thoughts pointed at them, or called them out on it, but that was me as a teen.)
The power hungry King and Queen of Windsong were also a bit too two-dimensional. Sure the king’s incompetence was explained and there were some scenes when Essie questioned her father’s motives, but he his character was still a bit distant. In the end it didn’t really matter because the story wasn’t about him and it was exciting enough that I didn’t need to explore his character much farther than was necessary. I think if his character would have been explored more his controversial “flaw” would have had to be psychologically analyzed, which would have most likely pulled the story down and into a direction it didn’t need to go. (If this doesn’t make sense read the spoiler alert below.)
I had mixed feeling about the world building. It was obvious that a lot of thought went into the world building of Stitching Snow (and I’m assuming it reaches into Lewis’s followup novels).
I enjoyed the implication that the humans in Stitching Snow are distant future relatives of Earthlings and found Lewis’s description of such a very clever indication without actually naming Earth itself.
Lewis relied heavily on vernacular vocabulary in the speech of the characters and the descriptions of the surroundings to give the reader the impression of Stitching Snow’s world building. Her most effective use of vernacular was related to the concept of “stitching.”
The tech used in the world of Stitching Snow is pretty much the same as what we know here on Earth with the exception of the fact that there are more virtual reality venues and tech. What interested me most was that Essie didn’t just write code, solder parts together, splice wires, or engineer round pegs into square holes, she “stitched” things together. This was a way to explain what Essie did without really explaining it. It was genius and irritating all that the same time. This use of the word stitching also made a clever tie-in to the novel’s title and gave it a figurative meaning of stitching Princess Snow back together.
Unfortunately the other vernacular vocabulary used wasn’t so clever and turned into “well there’s the author using that word again.” Everything was either a “sniff away” or “three sniffs away” and every other person or situation is “unhinged.” I guess I’ve been hounded by my critique partners enough now that when I see a word or phrase used one too many times in a story I find it bothersome. Why can’t you change it up? I hear them say and now I’m saying it myself. Is this something I need to unlearn? Of course it’s good to repeat words when it’s for effect, but I’m not sure if this is one of those times.
So is this effective world building? Yes and no. It’s good to have these things and say them occasionally, but to say everything is unhinged at least three or four times within each of the last five to six chapters of your story is a bit much.
A Word Or Two About Experimental Narrative
There was only one aspect of the storytelling that I felt was a bit jarring. Remember that this is a first person perspective novel. Imagine that you’re experiencing the story through Essie’s POV and you’re in a high tension scene — a really high tension scene, you know something bad is going to happen to her, something you don’t really want to see. And then suddenly the author decided to “show” you that Essie has a special ability that has only been hinted at in context with people that have nothing to do with Essie. Suddenly the tension screams to a halt when all of a sudden the reader is in someone else’s POV. Really? Where did that come from?
To paraphrase the author was “showing” that Essie has the ability to slip into another person’s mind: to hear that person’s thoughts, to feel their emotions, and influence what thoughts come to the surface for that person. As I said, this concept was all theoretically discussed in an earlier scene as people with mind control and nothing more. It was a clever foreshadow, but when it came to the actual demonstration it was a bumpy ride.
So because the story is in first person we go from Essie being the POV character to Essie being the second character in first person.
Yeah. I thought that was a little funny too.
But cool concept right? (The writer nurd inside me is geeking out about it.) Nothing like just throwing the reader into the fire. At first I was like “WTF?” and then “what a clever device. I’ve never seen that done before.” Has anyone else ever done this and I’m just behind the times?
As I said this shift in POV was a clever little device but I still felt a little strange about the shift every time it happened in the story. The alternate perspective always felt a bit too mechanical versus me feeling that I was actually in someone else’s head. But I have to admit I certainly thought that this would be a worthwhile writing experiment to play around with.
A Word Or Two About Tackling Heavy Material in An Adventure Story
Another reason I want to give Stitching Snow a 4 out of 5 is the smooth way that Lewis handled the dangerous subject of child rape. Lewis never out right “tells” or even “shows” that Essie was raped by her father, but the descriptions are strong enough to overtly hint to that being the case. Once I realized that Essie’s father raped her (probably multiple times) as a child, her character really came together for me. Her hard edges, overcompensations, and fascination and drive to beat down men totally make sense and rings true in the end.
Lewis used Essie’s reactions to various situations within to show the reader the result of her abusive childhood instead of outright telling the reader what had happened to her. The brilliance of this approach is that the reader could imagine the extend of Essie’s abuse instead of telling the reader what to think and feel. And I thought that was exceptional.
****Spoiler Alert Ended****
I realize that was a long winded expiration of my mixed feelings over Stitching Snow. But really overall, I would definitely recommend reading Stitching Snow. It’s a little more serious than the Lunar Chronicles, but it’s just as alive and teaming with possibilities. The nice thing too is that the book felt like a stand alone novel, which means you won’t be left hanging. I actually look forward to seeing what else R. C. Lewis has in store for this new universe that she’s created and I will definitely be adding her second book Spinning Starlight to my to-read list (even if it may take a while for me to get around to reading it).
If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, space opera, techie heroines, and heroes with heart then you will most likely enjoy Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis.
What are your thoughts about R. C. Lewis’s stories? I hope I inspired you to pick up Stitching Snow. I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below.
If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina: