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She's here to chat about summer snow and here's what she had to say...
Thank you so much for having me on the Book Boost. Although it’s the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, what’s on my mind today is snow. More specifically, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
If you’ve read The Snow Queen, you may see some resemblance to the story in my series, The House of Arkhangel’sk. In Book One, The Fallen Queen, a young girl loses her childhood friend Kae to a mysterious woman he meets on a ride in the snow. Kae follows the white-garbed lady, enchanted by her, and with a kiss of her ice-frosted lips, she changes him into someone his friend no longer recognizes. If that sounds familiar, it should.
Kay is the name of the little boy in Andersen’s tale, enchanted by the Snow Queen with a kiss that turns his heart cold. Andersen sets the story, telling us some crafty demons once created a mirror that turned everything ugly, and they wanted to take it to heaven to mock the angels. On the way, the mirror grew progressively heavier until the demons could no longer hold it and it fell to the earth. Some of the shattered pieces went into people’s hearts, making them cold and bitter, and in others, slivers of the mirror got into their eyes, making them see nothing but ugliness.
We soon learn that this is what happened to Little Kay, leaving him vulnerable to the Snow Queen’s temptation. When he disappears, his dearest childhood friend sets out on an adventure to find him and rescue him from the Snow Queen’s clutches.
In essence, that is the story of The House of Arkhangel’sk…or at least how it begins. Reading The Snow Queen is one of my earliest memories, and I still recall the book I had with little cloth figurines posed and photographed to illustrate it, and a cover that had one of those “holographic” plastic sheets that changed the image depending on how you viewed it.
There are a number of other influences on The House of Arkhangel’sk that in a roundabout way, come back to Andersen’s Snow Queen. One of these is Tam Lin, an old Irish ballad about a mortal man stolen by the Fairy Queen. When a local village girl falls in love with him, she risks her life to save him from the queen and return him from the Land of the Fairies. If she fails, Tam will die. This frequent theme in many folk tales was likely also an influence on Andersen’s story.
Another that influenced me is The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis, in which two children travel to a hidden, underground kingdom to rescue a prince of Narnia from a witch queen. The Silver Chair, in turn, appears to have been inspired by Tam Lin. There are several similarities, but Lewis left one little clue that convinces me of it: the witch in The Silver Chair who enchants and steals away Prince Rilian to take him to her underworld lair is referred to as The Lady of the Green Kirtle. If you Google “green kirtle,” you will find only one other literary reference: a garment the heroine Janet wears on her way to save Tam.
It seems Lewis was also inspired by The Snow Queen when he wrote the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. The White Witch who enchants Edmund Pevensie from her sleigh with a piece of Turkish Delight is a dead-ringer for the Snow Queen herself—and she has made it forever winter in Narnia.
All of these little bits and pieces floating in my imagination since childhood came together to create a story that on the surface might seem to have nothing to do with them. The House of Arkhangel’sk is a fantasy retelling of the story of Anastasia, peopled with angels and demons, and set in Russia. But underneath, if you look closely, you might find these little slivers of Andersen’s shattered mirror that I hope instead of bringing ugliness will make fans of The Snow Queen smile.
Do you have a favorite childhood story that has stayed with you?
A Note from the Book Boost: Fave childhood stories include The Velveteen Rabbit which always made me cry. And Eddie's Menagerie. I bought that book for my daughter the other day and the tradition continues! Thanks for joining us today and please tell us more about your latest.
Heaven can go to hell.
Until her cousin slaughtered the supernal family, Anazakia’s father ruled the Heavens, governing noble Host and Fallen peasants alike. Now Anazakia is the last grand duchess of the House of Arkhangel’sk, and all she wants is to stay alive.
Hunted by Seraph assassins, Anazakia flees Heaven with two Fallen thieves—fire demon Vasily and air demon Belphagor, each with their own nefarious agenda—who hide her in the world of Man. The line between vice and virtue soon blurs, and when Belphagor is imprisoned, the unexpected passion of Vasily warms her through the Russian winter.
Heaven seems a distant dream, but when Anazakia learns the truth behind the celestial coup, she will have to return to fight for the throne—even if it means saving the man who murdered everyone she loved.
Book Two in The House of Arkhangel’sk series, The Midnight Court, due out in August 2012.
I trotted the blue roan out to the road and into the wooded heights, on a path muted with preternatural quiet. It seemed nothing but my horse and I existed. Here in the North, we were without the oppressive, constant presence of the Seraphim Guard, which Papa could not abide outside the city. In Heaven’s hinterlands, he said, there was no need for their protection.
After a minute or two, I heard the light clip of Kae’s horse behind me.
“Is Ola angry with me?”
Kae drew up beside me. “Not as angry as she is with me for letting you go.” He shrugged beneath his cloak. “It will pass. Sometimes I think it’s her job as a wife to be angry. She’s very efficient at it.”
I laughed at his feigned look of persecution. “Such trials you must endure for the crown.”
“Yes,” said Kae with a mock sigh. “I shall endure anything to attain the crown. Even bed that shrew of a grand duchess of mine.”
I nearly slipped from my saddle for laughing. Kae adored Omeliea and she, him. They were newly wed, and though betrothed at the cradle, he had courted her since childhood as though it were not prearranged. I could not imagine two people more perfectly matched.
Kae stopped his mount in its tracks. “Did you see that?” His grey eyes fixed on a distant point where the trees met over the road. A peculiar fragrance hung on the air, like the freshly peeled bark of an Aravothan cedar, but I saw nothing. I shook my head, and Kae started forward once more.
The bright snow began to dull, shadowed beneath the silver canopy of gathering clouds. Perhaps my sisters had been right. The cold was already making my hands ache within my gloves. I considered turning back, but the thought of Ola’s smugness made me stay my course. I knew my way blindfolded along the snow-covered path; I’d ridden it a hundred times. Of course, my horse had not.
As a dusting of new snow began to fall, Kae leaned over his mount and pointed. “There! Do you not see it?” He spurred his horse forward without waiting for an answer.
I followed, urging my mare to keep pace with him, but we were falling behind on the softening road. Heavy flakes melted in my hair, and my cheeks burned with cold. I began to regret throwing the cap at Ola.
The road went higher here, and the clouds were lowering, and soon I had to slow my horse to a walk, surrounded on all sides by grey, hanging damp. I called out for Kae, but I might have been shouting into a wet blanket for all my voice seemed to carry.
After a few more yards, the trees grew close, and I was no longer certain we were on the path. Everything looked different coated in new snow, like some fairy world I’d stumbled into. Maybe I’d veered off in the mist? I bit my lip and glanced over my shoulder, but the fog was so thick I couldn’t be sure of the distance.
I opened my mouth to call again, when the sound of approaching hooves broke through the veil of clouds. A moment later, Kae’s horse appeared without its rider. I leapt from my mare and ran in the direction the horse had come, heedless of the precipices that might be hidden from view.
“Cousin!” I stumbled over a protruding root and fell headlong in the snow. For a moment, the world was silent except for the dripping branches over my head. Then the clouds thinned and Kae stood before me in an open glade, stiller than the mountain around us. His eyes were unfocused.
“The most beautiful steed,” he whispered. “I nearly caught her.”
“A runaway?” I got to my feet with no help from him, brushing snow and pine needles from my riding skirt. “All the way up here?”
His eyes cleared. “Not a runaway. She’s wild.” He seemed angry with me, as though I’d intruded. Brushing past me to rein in his mount, he swung himself up into the saddle with a swift and brutal motion. The horse, too, was intruding it seemed, unworthy next to the imaginary steed.
Kae rode off toward our hunting house without another word.
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