The Veil of Snows

The Veil of Snows

by Mark Helprin, George Guidall

"Long ago, in the time of the old emperor, I was young and just beginning in my profession. The Usurper was there, and one could not escape his evil presence.... An enthralling story in the time-honored tradition of Lewis Carroll and C. S. Lewis. Although her kingdom has lived in peace for many years, the queen has always feared the day the Usurper would return to… See more details below


"Long ago, in the time of the old emperor, I was young and just beginning in my profession. The Usurper was there, and one could not escape his evil presence.... An enthralling story in the time-honored tradition of Lewis Carroll and C. S. Lewis. Although her kingdom has lived in peace for many years, the queen has always feared the day the Usurper would return to plunge her city into darkness. Even as she rejoices in the birth of her first child, she sees signs of impending danger. Her husband and his army have vanished in the wilderness. With only a short time left to reinforce the kingdom's defense, her faithful general masterminds a strategy to keep the city safe, against great odds. But even when the Usurper's victory may seem to be complete, the mysterious veil of snows hides a symbol of undying hope. The Veil of Snows is a moving and powerful tale about the light of the human spirit,light that can never be wholly extinguished. The Veil of Snows, which stands on its own as a compelling story, also completes the Helprin/Van Allsburg trilogy that began with their first collaboration, Swan Lake, which Publishers Weekly called "elegant and beautiful...wise and musical." As Kirkus noted in a pointered review of A City in Winter, the second book, "The sheer scale of the city [Helprin] envisions will enthrall readers of any age...." Mark Helprin is the acclaimed author of books for adults and children, including A Soldier of the Great War and the best-selling Winter's Tale (both Harcourt). He lives in New York state. Chris Van Allsburg is a two-time Caldecott winner, for Jumanji and The Polar Express (both Houghton).

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This pseudo-poetic fantasy is the third in Helprin and Caldecott winner Van Allsburg's trilogy that began with Swan Lake. It continues the saga of an unnamed queen defending her country against the evil Usurper, but shows only brief glimpses of the savvy humor of A City in Winter. The narrator here is an unnamed former torture victim who has been promoted to knight and chief strategist for the queen. Members of the perfidious Tookesheim family, fawning helpmates to the Usurper in the previous book, have now corrupted the queen's empire. Once the Usurper begins a fresh assault on the kingdom, the rest is warand tragedy ensues. The queen's logic becomes tangled to the point of being laughable: for example, after insisting her men carry a wounded soldier with them (which understandably slows their escape), she is "astonished" to find the troop travels more slowly than they would have otherwise. A mute, starving child is rescued and extravagantly nurtured by the queen, then never mentioned again. Throughout, profound yet impenetrable bits of wisdom are doled out by the narrator. Referring to the queen's potential separation from her infant son, he intones: "The saddest thing in the world was for a parent to have his child loosed upon the wing...." The lavish volume features a few richly magical paintings that rank among Van Allsburg's best work: red trees being lifted up by pulleys to the top of a castle, cattle catapulted through the air. Only these make the book worthwhile. All ages. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Trina Heidt
As the Queen enjoys the birth of her first son, she also begins to sense that the kingdom she has fought her entire life to regain and protect is once again in danger of falling, as it has before, to the evil Usurper. With her husband away beyond the Veil of Snows, fighting his own battles and seemingly lost to her, she is left to defend her kingdom and secure their son's safety. With the help of her loyal staff of Generals, a brilliant plan is set into motion that holds off the attackers for a brief period of time. When the kingdom is finally overrun by the Usurper's armies and victory seems undeniable, a symbol of the queen's courage and the kingdom's hope escapes and is sheltered behind the Veil of Snows. Once again, Helprin and Van Allsburg have joined forces to keep alive the majestic kingdom and fascinating characters that were introduced in Swan Lake and carried on in the second book, A City in Winter. The third book in a beautiful trilogy, The Veil of Snows is eloquently written and grandly illustrated by two masters of their trades.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-8--This sequel begins some years after A City in Winter (Viking, 1996) ended. The queen, now a young woman, worries over the fate of her missing husband and watches in dismay as her kingdom is distracted and corrupted by the foolish games and amusements of the vulgar Tookisheims, a large and powerful family of Usurper supporters. After his defeat, the Usurper disappeared into the Veil of Snows, the far distant and icy mountains, and now the queen's husband has disappeared while leading an army in the same area. All signs point to the Usurper's return, and this is in fact what happens. Once again, full-page color paintings illustrate pivotal moments in the story but with one jarring note--the text specifically describes how the queen's hair had darkened from its youthful golden to a dark chesnut color, but the illustrations still show her with shimmering golden hair. The Veil of Snows is unremittingly sad, as it is told decades after the events in question by a loyal soldier who loved and guarded the queen until her untimely death at the hands of enemy soldiers. However, it ends with a ray of hope, and a definite need for a sequel, when the narrator, as an old man, sees the queen's husband and son, now fully grown, riding together at the head of a vast army descending at last from the Veil of Snows. This poignant and sophisticated fairy tale will appeal to those who enjoyed A City in Winter, and will create demand for a sequel to complete the story.--Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
Kirkus Reviews
The distinguished collaborators polish off a trilogy that began with Swan Lake (1989) and continued in A City in Winter (1996).

Polish is the operative word; Helprin's unnamed narrator illuminates this dark, poignant story with characteristically refulgent prose, to which Van Allsburg's 13 color scenes of theatrically posed, golden-toned figures add sparkling elegance. A troubled peace follows the usurper's flight behind the remote Veil of Snows, and he soon returns to shatter the Queen's army, kill her husband (seemingly), and oppose her and her infant son with two million men. After a bitter siege, the Queen and her last 100,000 loyal followers escape the capital city and disperse into the mountains, where she is pursued and killed. Helprin injects a garishly satiric hue into this tale by filling it with corpulent, venial, opportunistic Tookisheims, a family whose government is headed by the Duke, a media mogul whose papers are relentlessly critical of the Queen, and Branco, who "makes the talking boxes that take the place of books." After 25 years of waiting beside the Veil, the narrator symbolically casts away the last of his hope—just as the Queen's husband and grown son march out of the mists at the head of a new army. As with the previous books, the language, imagery, and wit are aimed at sophisticated sensibilities; Helprin's bottomless imagination and Van Allsburg's monumental visual style create a collaboration that glitters with star quality.

Read More

Product Details

Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
Edition description:
Age Range:
8 Years

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >