Skip to main content

Breadcrumbs

"Once upon a time, a demonlike creature with a forty-seven-syllable name made an enchanted mirror. The mirror shattered in the sky. The splinters took to the wind and scattered for hundreds of miles. When they fell to the earth, things began to change....A boy got a splinter in his eye, and his heart turned cold. Only two people noticed. One was a witch, and she took him for her own. The other was his best friend. And she went after him in ill-considered shoes, brave and completely unprepared." (p153,155)

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is a retelling of "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Anderson, yes, but it might be more fitting to say this is an homage to all of Anderson's tales because there are a great many of them incorporated into this one. The heart of  the story is "The Snow Queen" though, or rather, what it symbolizes. Growing up, changing, leaving old friends behind, and discovering who one is as a person. Hazel and Jack have been best friends forever. Hazel does not know who she is without Jack, and she reminds him someone knows he's still there when he feels invisible. These kids have suffered through some rough times together. Hazel's dad left and Jack was there for her. Jack's mom is seriously depressed and Hazel is there for him. But one day Jack stops talking to Hazel. Her mother tells her this is normal and that it is natural for friends to grow apart as they get older. Hazel knows something is wrong with Jack because he would not just stop being her friend. Then he disappears. His parents claim he is gone to assist an elderly relative Hazel knows he doesn't have. When another friend of Jack's confesses he saw Jack being taken into the woods by a mysterious other worldly woman in the snow, Hazel sets off on a quest to rescue him and bring him home.

The story is split into two parts. The first lays the background of Hazel and Jack, their characters and friendship, and how it all begins to fall apart. The second part is Hazel's journey through the magical land to rescue Jack. Hazel is a wonderful and sympathetic heroine. She reads a lot and lives in imaginary worlds most of the time. Jack is her companion on her adventures and her only friend. She has trouble at school, being new to the way public school works, and hates every moment she is there. When Jack plays with his other friends at recess, she reads. Any child who has ever spent their days gazing out a window and relegating their teacher's voice to background noise will find a kindred spirit in Hazel. What is unique about Ursu's treatment of this is the story demonstrates that Hazel is in need of help. Imagination is all well and good, but sometimes you do have to live in the real world. Friendship is a marvelous thing, but you must be able to function as an individual as well. Hazel has to learn these lessons the hard way and so into the woods she goes. Hazel has a realization as she is walking toward Jack: "This is what it is to live in the world.You have to give yourself over to the cold, at least a little bit." I like this because it is true. Especially the "little bit" part. Hazel's journey has her learning, not only about herself, but also about how to reconcile fantasy and reality. And why its necessary to survive.

The magical woods Hazel journeys through is not a happy place. It is not the type of fantasy land that kids will be wanting to find a way into. Hazel has imagined herself in all of those fantasy worlds many of times, and so is not prepared for awaits her. This fantasy world doesn't play by the rules. The witch is not an evil ruler. She does not need defeating. This is a place where no one can be trusted and danger lurks in light as well as in shadow. Hazel is witness to some terrible and devastating magic. It is an interesting concept, but there were times when I wondered what the point of it all was. Not that there needs to be a point, but there were several quotes that left me pondering what the author was trying to say with all of this. My initial impression is that the themes are a bit muddled, as if Uru herself were unsure she wanted to say something specific. To me it had a very postmodern feel which is a contrast to Anderson's original tale, which definitely had a very specific theme about the power of love. It felt to me that was lost in this retelling, but it isn't a book that can be fully analyzed on one read through. This is partly why I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half.

It is all a little dark but there are moments of humor too.  Like when Hazel encounters a wolf upon entering the forest, "She'd read once that if you ran into a bear in the woods you should avoid eye contact and you shouldn't run away, but all she knew about wolves was that you should never tell them how to find your grandmother's house." And when the witch comes to fetch Jack she asks, "Would you like some Turkish delight?...Just a little joke." 

The book is a story lovers playground. Not only are the Anderson tales but Ursu makes reference Narnia, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, Wonderland, Oz, L'Engle, Stead's When You Reach Me, and Gaiman's Coraline. Those were the ones I caught, there were probably more. The language is beautiful and yet not complicated. I recommend this for anyone who loves a good story.

Comments

Chachic said…
This one is already in my wishlist. It seems like a fairy tale retelling that I'd enjoy reading. Although it looks like you didn't love it so I'm not really rushing to read it.
Brandy said…
I loved the first half. The second half just didn't live up to it for me. Now this is not always the case. Charlotte liked the second half better if I remember correctly. If the second half had wowed me like the first this would have been one of my favorites of the year.

Popular posts from this blog

TTT: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by  The Broke and the Bookish  and now hosted at  That Artsy Reader Girl . This Week's Topic: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List From Most Recent to Least: What books have recently caught your eye?

Favorite Kissing Scenes

When thinking of a favorite things post I could do for February I decided it would have to be kissing. I've already done couples and I was feeling in the mood to do something fluffy and Valentine's related. So kisses it is. I read more MG than YA, and the YA I read tends to not focus on romance so this was actually harder than I expected it to be though a few jumped into my head right away. (And one of my choices does actually come from a MG book. One is adult. Gasp!) The actual scene from the book is quoted followed by my thoughts. The king lifted a hand to her cheek and kissed her. It was not a kiss between strangers, not even a kiss between a bride and a groom. It was a kiss between a man and his wife, and when it was over, the king closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the hollow of the queen's shoulder, like a man seeking respite, like a man reaching home at the end of the day . - The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner Turner doesn't write the

Shadowshaper

Shadowshaper  by Daniel José Older is everywhere. Best of lists. Award buzz. Blogs everywhere. It's one of those books everyone is reading and talking about. I had it on my TBR but decided I definitely needed to read it before the year was out just so I could weigh in on one of the most talked about books of 2015 if asked. It is deserving of every good thing said about it. Every. One. Sierra was looking forward to a relaxing summer break. Her plans involved hanging out with her friends and painting. They did not involve being chased by zombie like creatures and threatened by a magical power connected to her family's heritage she has never heard of. When murals begin fading all over her Brooklyn neighborhood, Sierra is perplexed. When her grandfather, who had a stroke, begins to apologize and starts repeating strange phases and insisting Sierra get the help of a boy she barely knows to help her finish her mural, Sierra is concerned but mostly about her grandfather. Then at a

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak  by Robert Beatty is a thrilling tale of mystery and adventure set at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in 1899. Having lived in Asheville and visited the house several times, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to read this. (Also it's MG fantasy, always a bonus for me.) Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Vanderbilt's spacious vacation home. She has lived there most of her life. Her father worked on the house as it was being built and is the mechanic who runs the massive generator and keeps the electricity going. Serafina is the chief rat catcher, slipping through the halls of her massive home secretly and quietly. She is light on her feet, sees well in the dark, and is quick enough to catch the vermin and keep them out. Serafina knows she if different and strange. Her father insists she stay hidden. But all that changes when one night Serafina witnesses a horrible crime. A little girl, a guest in the house, is fleein

YA Book GIVEAWAY!!!

On Tuesday I posted my Top Ten Books Read so Far in 2013 and promised to highlight more of this year's favorites and offer them in giveaways. This is the YA giveaway. This is open to anyone who lives where Book Depository ships for free . Book Choices: TO ENTER: Leave a comment below saying which book looks most interesting to you and leave a way I can reach you if you are the winner. (email address or twitter handle-If you are using Twitter it would be helpful if you followed me, @brandymuses , in case I need to DM you.) Entries after Monday, July 1 8:00 PM EST are invalid. The winner will be drawn as close to 8 as possible.  Yes, I still do my giveaways the old fashioned way.