Review: “The Raven and the Reindeer,” T. Kingfisher

Pros: Wonderful fairy tale-esque story
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

T. Kingfisher’s The Raven and the Reindeer is a glorious version of a Snow Queen fairy tale. Young Gerta and Kay are neighbors who’ve grown up together. Plump and sturdy Gerta is obviously in love with Kay, but Kay is a cold and distant creature. She just can’t quite see the distance. (Or as the narrative notes, “It is hard to see a story when you are standing in the middle of it.”) Gerta’s grandmother tells her stories of all kinds, including one of the dreadful Snow Queen, so Gerta recognizes the terrible spirit when she comes to claim Kay in the middle of a blizzard. All Gerta can do is watch helplessly from her window as the Queen abducts an all-too-willing Kay from his own bedroom window. When it’s clear that he really has disappeared and this wasn’t a nightmare, she becomes determined to set out after him and rescue him from the evil spirit. Her grandmother tries to dissuade her to no result. Unfortunately she’s hardly traveled for a couple of days when she gets waylaid by a witch.

I think my favorite part of this tale is the talking raven:

“Do you still talk?” she asked.
“Hell of a thing to forget in a day,” said the raven.

He’s sarcastic and biting yet seems to have a soft spot for Gerta. He has a sense for magic that she lacks, and offers that another young woman he knows might be willing to help Gerta. Janna and Gerta develop a fascinating relationship–one of Kingfisher’s strengths is relationships, in my opinion. They always have depth and interest to them, and often turn out to be something unexpected on at least one level. Right up there with the relationships is the dialogue:

“Are you a witch?” asked Janna.
“No,” said the old woman, “I’m a Lutheran.”

It’s hard not to keep quoting the dialogue because it’s so witty and delightful!

The style is magical. The characters are delightful. The setting is evocative and the tale is touching and vibrant. I would absolutely recommend The Raven and the Reindeer to anyone who likes folk and fairy tales.

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