The Snow Queen (Five Hundred Kingdoms Series #4)

The Snow Queen (Five Hundred Kingdoms Series #4)

by Mercedes Lackey

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Overview

Rediscover the magic of the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, by New York Times bestselling author Mercedes Lackey.

Aleksia, Queen of the Northern Lights, is mysterious, beautiful and widely known to have a heart of ice. But when she's falsely accused of unleashing evil on nearby villages, she realizes there's an impostor out there far more heartless than she could ever be. And when a young warrior disappears, Aleksia's powers are needed as never before. Now, on a journey through a realm of perpetual winter, it will take all her skills, a mother's faith and a little magic to face down an enemy more formidable than any she has ever known.

Originally published in 2008

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781488078606
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 11/14/2016
Series: Five Hundred Kingdoms Series , #4
Sold by: HARLEQUIN
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 58,945
File size: 649 KB

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Mercedes Lackey has written over one hundred titles and has no plans to slow down. Known best for her tales of Valdemar and The Five Hundred Kingdoms, she's also a prolific lyricist and records her own music.

Read an Excerpt



"You're not like any Fairy Godmother I ever heard of," young Kay said, sullenly, his voice echoing in the enormous, and otherwise empty, throne room. He broke the silence and in doing so, created a reminder of how empty the room was. If Kay had taken the time to think—which he did not, because at the moment, the only thing he ever thought about was himself—he might have wondered why such a room existed here in the Palace of Ever-Winter at all. Aleksia did not hold audiences, nor have a Court. So far as he knew, there were only two living things in this palace: himself and her. So why would she need a huge throne room? Why would she need a throne room at all?

Such thoughts had not once crossed his self-involved mind; at least, not yet.

He did not shout; he was not the type to shout, and certainly there was no need in a room so quiet that even the faintest movement sounded as loud as a deliberate footfall. But his voice, midway between a tenor and a bass, was layered with frustration and anger, and had the distinct edge of a whine to it. It grated on Aleksia's nerves. Kay grated on Aleksia's nerves.

The throne room was austere magnificence itself, as was all of the Palace. Walls that perfectly imitated snow were, in fact, the most pristine of white quartz. Floors that looked like clouded ice were marble. It was an enormous space, exactly like the interior of a pure-white egg. It was full of light, and when she was not keeping the temperature artificially low for the "benefit" of her "guests," it was warm and welcoming.

There were benches all around the circumference, also white, also of marble. Normally, they were softened with cushions of the palest blue velvet, but of course not when Kay was around. It was her intention to keep Kay as physically uncomfortable as possible while creating an illusion of comfort.

It was hard to ignore him; his presence itself would have shouted, even if he had not spoken at all. His black-velvet clothing and sable furs made an inky intrusion in the otherwise pure-white room—a very solid and substantial blot in the midst of light.

Black did not suit him, not even the lush black of velvet and fur that looked so soft it made the hand yearn to touch it; the lack of color, and the contrast of the very pure white of the surroundings, brought out the sallow tones of his skin, and made him look as if he had been sculpted out of raw piecrust. He was the one who insisted on wearing black, though. Presumably, he thought it made him look serious and to be reckoned with. He probably thought it made him look older. Most of her visitors did the same; it was as if there was a kind of unacknowledged uniform for the nonconformist.

She shifted a little, a very little, in her throne. The heavy, buttery silk of her gown, impregnated with warming spells, moved with her, sliding like cream over her arm. She did not immediately reply, letting the silence speak for her and make him uneasy.

Since Aleksia did not need to look at his expression to read his mood, she did not turn her attention away from the five-foot-tall mirror that she was watching with all the intensity of a hawk at a quivering bush hiding a rabbit.

The mirror was an incredible piece of work, both in terms of its craftsmanship and in what it was made of. This was a single flat sheet of ice nearly two inches thick, as clear as a pane of glass except when she wanted it to become reflective. It was held by a four-inch-thick, cloud-colored frame that was also made of ice, severe and plain, the surface so smooth that it seemed to deflect the curious finger. At the moment, the mirror was, indeed, reflecting something, but the reflection was not of herself, nor of Kay, but of another scene entirely. In the crystalline depths of the mirror, a tired-looking young girl was plodding through a forest.

She was, perhaps, sixteen or seventeen—a woman grown by most standards, though not by Aleksia's. She was blond and blue-eyed, with long golden plaits wrapped over her head like a kind of crown and just showing under the rabbit-fur cap. Her face was round, but not dumpy; she had a sweet expression, a pert nose and a mouth of the sort that made young men want to kiss it—full-lipped and soft and inviting. She was dressed as the more prosperous sort of village-dweller would dress, in a sturdy woolen dirndl in a cheerful red, that belled out around her ankles, a little white apron that had never seen the inside of a kitchen, a matching cloak in a darker red with a hood that could be pulled over the cap. On her feet were stout leather boots, also red, lined with rabbit fur, and mittens that matched her cap. Nothing more could be seen of her clothing beneath the cloak, but it could reasonably be assumed it was of equally good quality. She was burdened with a pack and used a polished wooden staff to help her along the path. And she looked entirely out of place there. It did not seem possible that such a person could be found in the middle of a forest; she belonged in a village square, buying embroidery yarn and gossiping with friends. Her cheeks should have been pink with exertion, but they were pale. Her eyes scanned the forest nervously, and her face showed her fear all too clearly.

The forest through which she was trudging was not the sort inclined to raise the spirits. "Gloomy" was probably the most flattering thing that could be said about it. There was no undergrowth, for the trees that crowded each other on either side of the dirt road blocked out the sun. Those trees were, for the most part, black pine, whose dark branches dripped water and occasionally sap, and dropped needles that carpeted the floor of the forest. Overhead, their branches formed a canopy so thick that not even a scrap of sky was visible. If there were birds, they were high up in the boughs and certainly not visible from the girl's point of view. There were no animals in sight, but one could easily imagine wolves or Bears lurking in the distance, suitably obscured by the closely crowded tree trunks. Even on the hottest of Summer days, this forest would be dank and chill. Now, in the Autumn, with sunset drawing near, it would be bitter under those trees. And it would be so damp that the cold would penetrate even the warmest of cloaks. Small wonder she was bundled up as she was.

There was no sound, though Aleksia could easily have it if she chose. Right now, though, she knew that all she would hear was oppressive silence, overlaid perhaps with the dripping of water onto a thick layer of dead needles, and the girl's soft footsteps, and perhaps the far-off call of a crow or some other bird of ill-omen. Hardly worth the trouble.

Kay, of course, could see none of this. All he saw was Aleksia staring into a mirror that cast no reflection. And ignoring him. He did not in the least appreciate being treated in this way. Aleksia caught his reflection off the ice. The corners of his mouth turned down farther, his eyes narrowed and a crease appeared between his brows. And then he spoiled it all, as his lower lip began to protrude in the start of a pout. For all that he allegedly wanted to be left alone, he hated being ignored. But then, Aleksia knew very well what was actually going on in her guest's mind.

"And you, of course, have such a vast experience of Fairy Godmothers," Aleksia finally answered him, in a voice that dripped with sarcasm the way that the trees in her mirror dripped moisture. Her voice rang crisp in the empty chamber—utterly calm, and maddening. At least, she hoped it was maddening. She shifted again, this time for the little pleasure of feeling the silk of her gown slip across her body.

Kay started at the sound of her voice, then glowered. He hated having his "authority" challenged even more than he disliked being ignored. Aleksia would have found it more amusing had she not played this same sort of scene over and over again with other guests in the past and would play it with still more in the future. Still. It was potentially as funny as watching an ill-tempered rabbit challenge a warhorse.

And that was a dangerous stance to take in the hall of one who could have sent him outside to be eaten by an ice-drake by merely snapping her fingers, but he was very young and utterly convinced of his own intelligence, knowledge and immortality. "I—" he began.

"Most of your sentences begin with I, and you might find it more profitable to find some other way to begin them," Aleksia continued, still not turning from the mirror. She wished that the next act of the drama she was watching would hurry up. She was regretting deciding to allow Kay to find her today—but this was the only mirror powerful enough to let her see all she needed to, from so far away, and she hated asking the Brownies to move it. "No one cares about you. You are an unlicked cub, a mere youth, barely out of childhood." She had been longing to say this for days; she might as well do so now. She began to warm to her subject and chose her words with care. "You have no experience worth hearing about, no store of wisdom from reading or studying with wiser men and your personality is repellant. There was but one person who loved you, and you persisted in thrusting her away. Instead, you wanted to be left alone to concentrate on your work. You were, in fact, injudicious enough to wish for just that out loud." She saw him start again, out of the corner of her eye. "So. I have given you that, on condition that you devote yourself to your work and make me wonders. There is a library here. There is a workshop. You only have but to say that you want something, and it appears. Go and make use of these resources, for which older and wiser men than you have pined and languished. And when you find something or make something you think might be worthy of my attention, you may bring it to me, provided I am not otherwise occupied, and provided you begin your sentence with some other word than I ."

Reflected in the surface of the ice, Kay looked utterly, utterly shocked. No one had ever spoken to him like that before. He had been rather too much indulged and made much of by parents who thought he was clever; as a child, he'd had the best schooling and a mother and father who greeted every accomplishment as if he was the only boy in the universe to have achieved such things. And he was very clever, even Aleksia would admit that—but clever did not compensate for the level of self-absorption he had managed to achieve in seventeen years. When she had appeared before him on the night of the first frost—heralded by an out-of-season snowstorm—in her flying sleigh pulled by four snow-white reindeer, he had taken it as his due that such a creature should offer him her help. He had accepted her invitation, of course. There was never any doubt that would happen. He was too self-centered to consider that it could have been a trap.

And now he had been here for three weeks, seeing nothing and no one but Aleksia herself. She had made her servants and helpers invisible to him, so that he would be unaware how full the Palace really was, and so that he would be unable to talk to anyone. She had made herself unavailable to him as well, making it as clear as possible, without ever actually saying it, that she was far too important to cosset him.

And now, he found himself in the position of having everything he had asked for, and yet being subject to something he had never, in all his life, actually experienced before.

He was alone. There were no parents to praise him, no sweetheart to gaze at him with adoration, no rivals to triumph over or peers to boast to. There were not even any visible servants to question, look down upon or bully. It was just him and his own thoughts, and he was finding that an uncomfortable experience.

He was a prisoner in a cage made of gold and lined with silk, as isolated as any hermit-hunter snowed-in inside a mountain cabin. He took his meals alone, was attended but never contacted in any way, and only glimpsed her briefly, generally at a distance. Day by day, she watched him without his being aware of the fact, and saw it wear on him.

Today she had told the servants to allow him to find the throne room and her in it, rather than confusing his steps as they generally did. This was the result.

He could be redeemed—he would not be here, in the Palace of Ever-Winter, the home of the Ice Fairy, if he was not capable of redemption. The Tradition had made that part clear enough by building such an enormous store of magic about him that, if Aleksia had waited until Winter to fetch him, he would have found his initials written in frost on the windowpane, snowmen having taken on his features when he passed, and the cold having grown so bitter that wildlife would have been found frozen in place. Even so, things had gotten to the point that Ravens had taken to following him, which was a very ominous sign had he but known it. Presumably if Aleksia had done nothing, and no other wicked magician had discovered him and virtually eaten him alive for the sake of that power, he would have gone to the bad all by himself. He was too self-centered and arrogant to have escaped that particular fate—and most likely, given his turn of mind, he would have become a Clockwork Artificer, one of those repellant individuals who tried to reduce everything to a matter of gears and levers, and tried to imprison life itself inside metal simulacrums. While not usually dangerous to the public at large the way, say, the average necromancer was, Clockwork Artificers could cause a great deal of unhappiness—and in their zeal to recreate life itself, sometimes resorted to murder.

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Snow Queen (Five Hundred Kingdoms Series #4) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 136 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of Merry Lackey for years. I read her Arrows Valdemar series as a child and fell in love with them. As an adult, I have discouvered her again, and have just finished the Snow Queen. Can't wait for the next one!
harstan More than 1 year ago
As the Snow Queen of the Palace of Ever-Winter, Godmother Aleksia insures magic is handled safely. However the Godmother Elena through their mirror communication system informs her that someone pretending to be the Snow Queen is killing people. Aleksia is angry and disturbed, but plans to put an end to this odious affront.--------- At the same time that Aleksia learns of the deception, the Snow Queen abducts Veikko. His mother the Wise Woman Annukka and his fiancée Kaari vow to save him from the evil one. When these two courageous women meet Aleksia, neither trusts the other until the trio realizes an adversary to all of them is using powerful magic to cause havoc across the land. ----------- The latest Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms (see THE FAIRY GODMOTHER, ONE GOOD KNIGHT, and FORTUNE¿S FOOL) is a wonderful adult fairy tale starring three heroines facing danger with courage, wit, and humor. The story line is action-packed from the moment the mirror hot line activates and never slows down until the ¿Queens¿ confront each other. Readers will appreciate the enchanting SNOW QUEEN as Mercedes Lackey casts a reading in one sitting spell on her audience.----- Harriet Klausner
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting take on Andersen's Snow Queen. This one is good, one of the Godmothers who keep the fairytale Tradition from wreaking havoc on lives in the Five Hundred Kingdoms. A false Snow Queen is bringing unnatural winter to the Finland-analogue, and the real Queen must find and stop her. One of Lackey's better books.
hcanton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fun, fast read. It definitely has some storyline consistency issues towards the end of the book, of things like characters being told something on one page only to cover the same ground again a few pages later or where the character knows something differently than what they'd been told; there are a number of glitches that should have been caught by the editor, things like the wrong name being referenced in a conversation; and the last few pages of the story are quite weak, but the story as a whole is light fun. I much preferred this book over "The Fairy Godmother" in that throughout the book M.Lackey always remembers that she is writing a fairy tale with a strong heroine, unlike in "The Fairy Godmother" where it seemed she would sometimes forget that she was writing a fairytale and not a bodice ripper. Thankfully, this book has none of the porn undercurrent that ruined "The Fairy Godmother" for me (which other than that undercurrent, I thought was a good tale).
pacey1927 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read and enjoyed all the books in Mercedes Lackey's 500 Kingdoms series. "The Snow Queen" while enjoyable was still easily my least favorite. The basic premise is the snow queen Aleksia is the Godmother over an icy territory called the Sammies. Like every good Godmother she watches over her Kingdom and aids or hinders the magic of the Tradition on her people. "The Tradition" finds certain people in situations where they can be manipulated to follow a familiar fairy tale path. For example, a girl who suddenly inherits a not-so-nice stepmother can be manipulated into a Cinderella-like situation. Aleksia is lonely in her snow palace until she learns another sorceress is calling herself the Snow Queen and causing great harm. I like the character of Aleksia a great deal. Her peronality was very distinct and she has a very unusual sense of humor. However, the story of Aleksia would have been better if her background was expanded on. What happened to get her to the position of Godmother really had an impact that was lessened because Lackey didn't spend enough time on it. On the other hand, there was a lot of parts of the book that seemed to drag. In my opinion that is rare in a 500 Kingdoms novel. For example there are at least two long examples of Aleksia in another form hunting for food. They added nothing relevant to the story and were boring on top of that. The editing of the book was worse than in any mass market paperback I have ever read. Misspelled words, run on sentences and grammar problems were rampant. Chapter Four ends in this sentence: 'the look of terror in his eyes did not make up'. It stopped mid-sentence! The next chapter begins a fresh scene with a different character's perspective. I ofund this supremely frusterating! There was much to enjoy about "The Snow Queen" however. The fairy tale bits were beautiful. The adventures and the questing party parts were entertaining and fun to read. The resolution was uplifting as any good fairy tale should be. Everyone gets their happy ending. I'd love to see Lackey write about Aleksia again, but in a crisper, well-edited story.
SunnySD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aleksia's time as a Fairy Godmother has been challenging, but she's beginning to get just a wee bit bored and lonely with the routine of always being the "evil" snow queen. Given the location of her castle, she's a bit short on visitors (other than her "victims") as well. So when a real Snow Queen threatens one of the neighboring kingdoms with perpetual winter, Aleksia decides it's time she has a hand in the adventure.A bit tame, actually. And it could have used just a touch more in the way of romance.
titania86 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aleksia is the Snow Queen and a fairy godmother. Her job is to nudge (or bludgeon depending on how stubborn someone is) the inhabitants in her area so their respective fairy tale paths will end in happiness and prosperity instead of carnage and possibly death. The Tradition is an amorphous power that emanates throughout the land that influences people in a path that is seen time and time again in folk and fairy tales. Aleksia must work with this power to ensure happy fairy tale endings. She lives in an ice palace far from everyone and feels very lonely. She has never been involved in any sort of adventure before and longs for more human contact. One day, Aleksia hears rumors of a witch impersonating her and destroying whole villages with her magic. In order to save her own reputation and the lives of her imposter's victims, she must embark on an adventure of her own. Unlike the people she observes, she has no idea where the Tradition will lead her.This is the fourth book in the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series and I still can't wait to see more. I love this world where fairy tale characters are a part of everyday life. In many traditional fairy tales, women just sit, wait for a handsome prince to come rescue them, and look pretty. There are very few tales where a female character be active and try to solve her own problem. This world features a plethora of strong, driven women who aren't afraid to go on adventures of their own. It's a theme that goes through all of the books in one way or another and I really like this feminist updating of fairy tales. In this book, not only does Aleksia fight to overthrow her imposter, but a young woman named Kaari goes on a quest to rescue her love from the imposter snow queen. Mercedes Lackey is making fairy tales relevant to our time by making changes to them, just as the Brothers Grimm did in their time.Even though I really like Aleksia and the world she inhabits, this is still my least favorite of this series. The pacing feels really strange. There would be long drawn out and unnecessary scenes of Aleksia hunting as an animal or inessential drama in the Sammi village. The major problem of the novel isn't even addressed until the last 20 pages. It felt incredibly rushed and tacked on. The same goes for Aleksia's romance. There was really no chemistry or tension or even remote interest between the two characters until the very last page of the book. There just seemed to be no reason for it to be there at all. Editing errors were present throughout the narrative. The most glaringly obvious ones were conflicting descriptions of characters. There was also one chapter that literally ended midsentence. I had never seen anything like it and I wondered how something like this could escape an editor. I contacted the book publisher and they sent me a hardcover version which did include the missing page. The paperback seems to be the only version with this problem.Overall, the plot and numerous editing problems really disappointed me, but the characters and the universe were still interesting as with the previous books in the series. I hope the next in the series, The Sleeping Beauty, will be a decided improvement over this one.
calmclam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Light but ultimately unsatisfying, with a poor choice of narrator during the climax.
seekingflight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall, there was too much crowded into this story for my liking, but I enjoyed some of the elements very much ¿ not least, Lackey¿s original twist on the conventional tale of the Snow Queen, and her portrayal of the world of Fairy Tales as one where (as far as is possible) virtue is rewarded, while wrong-doers are made to recognise and face up to the consequences of their actions, and perhaps even given a chance at redemption ...Upon reflection, I¿m glad that I persevered to the end with this series, and I can see myself thinking back fondly on some elements of the stories. I suppose I went in with high expectations, and I was therefore a little disappointed.
Alliebadger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a HUGE Mercedes Lackey fan. I got addicted to the 500 Kingdoms series and have been devouring the rest of her books ever since. The problem is, though, I didn't really enjoy Snow Queen as much as the other ones. She seems decline with each book in a series... If you're a Lackey fan/500 kingdoms fanatic, definitely read it. It's just as well-written and fun and exciting as the others. I was a little sad to discover that the big climactic ending happens in 10 pages, and the rest of the book is, while beautifully and creatively told, what leads up to it. Don't start here if you're new to her, but definitely work your way up to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lackey has done it again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorites by Lackey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read this twice now. For some reason I enjoyed it more the second time around. I own all of the books in this series.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She has yet to dissapoint with her five hundred kingdoms books. I love that each one is different.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like all of her books, this one was very hard to put down once you started it. I love the twists she gives to the old school fairy tales.
payton_sage More than 1 year ago
The Snow Queen brings the reader into the lands of the north. Godmother Aleksia is a bit different than Godmother Elena. She lives through working with her mirror magic and rarely gets out beyond the random royal event or to bring a would be loner to her palace to figure out what means most in his life. Aleksia is thrown off guard when Godmother Elena reports to her that another woman has taken her name, "The Snow Queen". It is Aleksia's duty to find the person who is responsible for killing innocent people in her name. Overall it was a good story. Lackey takes three different female characters from various points in their lives and tells the story from each of their point of view. Although it is not a truly romantic story, there are some love elements in it. The relationships between the side characters show the romantic angle. Aleksia's love life is a bit cold like her palace. Meaning she really doesn't have one. Like in "A Good Knight" that part of the story doesn't really take place until the very end.
Mooring_Mermaid More than 1 year ago
Good read that reminded me that sometimes fairy tales have to work for that happily ever after too..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago