The imperious Winter colonists have ruled the planet Tiamat for 150 years, deriving wealth from the slaughter of the sea mers. But soon the galactic stargate will close, isolating Tiamat, and the 150-year reign of the Summer primitives will begin. Their only chance at surviving the change is if Arienrhod, the ageless, corrupt Snow Queen, can destroy destiny with an act of genocide. Arienrhod is not without competition as Moon, a young Summer-tribe sibyl, and the nemesis of the Snow Queen, battles to break a conspiracy that spans space. Loosely based on the Andersen fairy tale, The Snow Queen features a girl who must battle obstacles to rescue a boy she cares for from a woman who has hardened his heart. That's what they have in common- Andersen didn't figure nanomachines, galactic governments, spaceships, and cloning into the original story.
A fascinating cast save this book from being too much of a standard hero's journey. Smugglers, gamblers, prophets, technicians, and police officers have to clash and work together towards the ending. The plot is complex and rich, and touches on many philosophical questions without throwing them too hard into the reader's face. Although the heroine and hero's relationship is paramount and enduring, others get involved to create a love quadrangle that gets complicated, since Moon and her Sparks spend many years apart with him believing he'll never see her again. Strictly speaking, the book's probably not a romance novel. However, it does end in a Happy For Now, to be continued in The Summer Queen. Author site: Joan D. Vinge