What if one of those ugly wishes, we mutter in anger before thinking it through, came true? That is the defining moment in the childhood of the protagonist in “The Ice Queen”, and it turns her into ice. Feel not and be not tempted to make wishes. As an adult, she is then stroke by lightning – literally.
What does not kill you, is supposed to make you stronger; but it does not come automatically. The main character has to struggle through and (re)gain her life and sanity. Moreover, this is the story of “The Ice Queen” written in the magnificent Hoffman style of magical realism that hits home every time. “The Ice Queen” is a fairy tale for adults, which makes you question your own life, wishes, passions, direction, and more than anything, that secret many carry that turns into a shard of glass in our eye.
With the title as it is, it is impossible not to compare the novel to H. C. Andersen’s fairy tale of the same name. The parallels are definitely there, but Hoffman has spun the themes into her own cloth – and written her story from this starting point. So while the parallels exists (and would make a very interesting paper), this Ice Queen is definitely Hoffman’s own.
One of the defining pairs of opposites in “The Ice Queen” is ice/death and fire/passion. The protagonist is cold, she works in a library that few use, and read about different ways to die. There is a divide between who she really is/her secret and everything she does, striving for the anonymity of isolation. Then she meets another lightning survivor, whose skins burns hot. Their passionate relationship is a perfect match and thaws the protagonist. I was actually surprised about the explicitness of the relationship, but it works and radiates heat to the reader, the same way the recalling of different way to die has a chilling effect.
I recommend “The Ice Queen” as an adult fairy tale to readers who love magical realism. As always, Hoffman keeps the balance between the magic and realism beautifully.