When an angry eight-year-old girl wishes her mother were dead, her mother dies in an accident on an icy road that very night. This event convinces the unnamed narrator that she can make wishes come true. She grows up to be a lonely, cold librarian, an ice queen obsessed with death. When her grandmother also dies, she makes another wish: to be struck by lightning. She survives, but with damage that affects her ability to see and feel. While recovering, she meets a young man, Lazarus Jones, who’s also been burned by lightning but has different symptoms—notably, a body that is permanently too hot to touch. This fable relates the story of these unlikely, lightning-crossed lovers.
Little, Brown. 224 pages. $26.98.
"… her best novel since Practical Magic. … [Hoffman] defines the difference between lightning and magic: ‘Magic makes sense. Lightning does not.’ At the same time, she explores the consequences of both with luminous clarity." Melissa Mia Hall
Los Angeles Times
"This uneven, risk-taking novel is still more Grimm than Andersen, but the little girl beset by malevolent fate grows into a very human godmother who has learned that love can bring comfort as well as catastrophe. … [Hoffman is] entitled to stray into metaphorical thickets from time to time." Wendy Smith
"[Hoffman] wades so deep into magic that it is sometimes hard to see over her shoulder to the real world. … The transformation of the woman through passion is at the heart of the book."
Rocky Mountain News
"Unfortunately, Hoffman comes close to writing these characters more as fairy tale symbols than as living, breathing people. … Despite its flaws, The Ice Queen is an admirable addition to the unique genre of adult fairy tales."
Ashley Simpson Shires
"The novel, billed as ‘startlingly erotic,’ isn’t, mostly because Lazarus Jones is such a tepid, two-dimensional character. He has never cracked a book, something that should more than annoy a persnickety librarian." Andrea Simakis
"Alice Hoffman’s new Gothic romance is supposed to be a modern fairy tale but, brother, the results are grim. The story heads off into the dark woods of magical realism with a basketful of guilt and despair, but it quickly falls down a well of contrivances." Ron Charles
A few critics enjoyed Hoffman’s foray into the fairy tale genre, calling it a stunning feat of storytelling that breathes new life into the fable’s ancient themes of reward and retribution. But others concluded that Hoffman (Blackbird House Nov/Dec 2004) strayed too far "into the woods" between a modern story and the fables of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, particularly the latter’s "Snow Queen." For many, the author relied too much on clunky metaphor, lulling summary, and descriptive emotions rather than scenes that would draw in readers and make them care about the love affair between the narrator and Lazarus Jones. This novel may interest the devoted Hoffman fan, but novices might want to check out her earlier, more realistic fiction first.