Book Review | The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

18 January 2019

I am very much a seasonal reader. There are some books that demand to be read during certain seasons, and I will put off reading certain books so I can read them during the perfect time. Children's classics like Anne of Green Gables are for spring. Settling in the cold winter months with a long high fantasy novel is my favorite. Mysteries and thrillers are for fall, and I only read young adult contemporaries during the summer. While there is some overlap, there's a literary timeline going through my head at all times.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is a book I truly believe should only be read during the winter.

The story follows an old couple, Jack and Mabel, who settle in Alaska in the 1920s. They are burdened by the fact that they are unable to have children. In an inspired moment they build a little girl out of snow, and days later they find a real little girl in the woods with a strong resemblance to the one they had built from the snow. 

This book is a retelling of the Russian fairytale, The Snow Maiden, and you can tell while reading it. The whole story is woven with magic and whimsy so well. You almost feel like you're dreaming. You don't know for sure if the child they find in the woods is actually real, or simply a figment of the imagination. 

There were several nods to the original fairytale that added to the magical element. However, I felt like some of them were unnecessary. Mabel owns a leather bound copy of the fairytale that she turns to in order to try to understand what's happening. I felt like this aspect was a little too meta. It made me feel like the author was trying too hard to make it clear to the reader that the book was based off of a fairytale. 

My favorite part of the reading experience was without a doubt the writing. The atmosphere of Alaska in the 1920s that Eowyn Ivey creates in this book is absolutely stunning, which is why this is the perfect book to read during the winter wrapped in blankets while drinking a mug full of tea. You can feel the cold in your bones as you read, and it all flows together like poetry.

There were some aspects of this book that disappointed me. Some of the characters (including Faina, the snow child, unfortunately), felt a bit two dimensional. I wanted them to be more fleshed out so that I could get to know and understand them better. Especially at the end, they started doing things without clear motivations and it was hard for me to connect and go along with what was happening.

The ending itself kind of dragged the whole book down for me. Through the whole story I had the ending built up in my head. I want something tragic and heartbreaking to happen, and it was tragic. Just not in the way I wanted it to be. I was disappointed. Maybe that's my own problem, but it still affected my reading experience.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves retellings as much as I do. I feel like this will be one I return to when there's a chill in the air and I'm craving something magical.

Rating: ★
"To believe, perhaps you had to cease looking for explanations and instead hold the little thing in your hands as long as you were able before it slipped like water between your fingers."-- Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child


  1. I just recently started debating whether or not to read The Snow Child, so your timing with this post was impeccable! Great review :)

    Eleanor | On the Other Side of Reality

    1. I'm glad! I hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up!

  2. I've never heard of the fairy tale that this book is based off of, but that sounds like a really interesting re-telling! I really enjoyed reading your review, Hannah. <3

    1. The fairytale is amazing! Thanks for your sweet comment, Kate! <3