Hands Held in the Snow

by Thedude3445

Original ONGOING Drama Fantasy Romance Female Lead Multiple Lead Characters School Life Slice of Life Urban Fantasy

The city of Balarand lies under occupation. Foreign soldiers guard the streets--their flag flies above the castle. Caught in the middle of a war between its two larger neighbors, the entire kingdom is under turmoil.

Emi, a bureaucrat's daughter, engaged to a far-off noblewoman, meets Beatrice, a student on a path to the priesthood. Love sparks... as does the tension in the world around them. Hand-in-hand, the two must face the coming blizzard.

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Updates Mondays and Thursdays. Featuring artwork by Mikayla Buan. https://twitter.com/mikayla_buan

You can also read Hands Held in the Snow on its official website: http://handsheld.quinlancircle.com/

And follow Hands Held on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hands_held

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Thedude3445

Thedude3445

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kgy121
  • Overall Score

Emi would win in a Fistfight

Reviewed at: Chapter 12: Fitting

Important information: The viewpoint switches between the two main characters, Emi and Beatrice. If you don't find that out right off the bat, you can get really confused for several chapters.

Art isn't every chapter, but there's been more than one piece, and so far they've had consistant quality. If you like the one from the first chapter, you'll probably like the girls in the future chapters.

Anyway, clerics only get 3/4 base attack bonus, whereas nobles get a full 1/level, and since Beatrice has yet to become a full priestess that implies she isn't even level 2 yet. 3/4 rounds down to 0 at level one, so Emi has the clear advantage.

MrBadWithNames
  • Overall Score

Beatrice has no chance against Emi in a fist fight.

Reviewed at: Chapter 12: Fitting

Right, I'll start off by saying I have read a total of 1 romance story thus far... and it is this - so I don't really have a good comparison for the story.

The whole relationship between the two characters is absolutely adorable - like it's so sweet it raises my blood sugar levels to the point I'd give a vampire diabetes.

The dynamic between the two characters is fun to read - nothing ever feels fake and you can almost imagine yourself in the shoes of one of the characters.

The world-building is subtle and kept simple, but it's enough to keep me interested, whenever the focus was shifted to some banquet or some chat about politics I didn't feel like I the story was stalling for time.

The art is awesome, not much to say on this other than I could totally see this becoming a webcomic.

The setting is hard to pin-point time-wise but seeing as that is not the focus of the story I don't mind.

Realistically I can't really find a flaw with this story, I'd give it 5 stars but that's really up to the setting and topic for me, like I said I'm not really a romance kinda' guy.

In any case, if there is one thing you'll get from reading this review then I hope it's that...

Emi would absolutely anihilate Beatrice in a fistfight - it's not even a fair match-up, 

 

David Musk
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I should start by saying that I don’t ordinarily read romance or slice of life stories, but I’ve been meaning to branch out so that I can become a better romance writer myself. Still, I realize I might not be the target audience so I’ll make an effort to be as objective as possible!

Style

Overall, the style is solid. Slightly humorous, with lots of personality. I was able to clearly visualize every scene and I was rarely ever confused. The amount of metaphors and evocative imagery here is far above average for a webnovel, which was a plus for me.

The descriptions are great, too. I think a lot of authors on this site take for granted that we know what certain things look like. For example, a city street. The problem is, there are a thousand different kinds of cities and time periods. Here’s a snippet from this book that really narrows down what sort of city we're in:

"No house was identical to the next; each had the creative flair of the architect who designed it. The houses had gates, had yards of grass and cobblestone walkways. Their roofs were pointed high, the larger among them giving off the look of miniature castles, of barracks for an army of luxury. Several of Emi’s neighbors even had tiny ponds in their yards, with fountains in the center keeping the water fresh and flowing."

This immediately feels European, but far more modern than medieval. Horses and carriages are also mentioned in another paragraph so we know that we don’t quite have cars yet.

Like I said, the descriptions are great. Even some of my favorite novels on here are too light in this department. Readers will still imagine something either way, but if we’re not on the same page as the author, that can lead to surprises later on. I know lots of poetic language and descriptions aren’t always popular in the webnovel world, but all it takes is a few sentences to make a world of difference.

The story starts out in a first-person omniscient style, like a storybook or a framed narrative (think: Princes Bride) where it’s clear we have one character (the grandmother) telling this story to her grandchildren.

My only issue here is that it’s not always consistent. There are some points in the story where the narrator injects her first-person comments or speaks directly to the reader. There are other times where we’re deep in one of the two POV character’s heads, experiencing the world exclusively through her eyes in a third-person limited perspective. Sometimes, a comment is made about the world. When that happens, I wonder who’s making the comment, the narrator from the beginning, or the POV character? I can usually figure it out, but that process isn't as effortless as it could be. 

I’m not against this omniscient style but I think it could benefit from some more structure. For example, if it were confined to the prologue or interludes. It seemed like the author intended for the first chapter to be the most omniscient—which makes sense to me—however, it’s not 100% consistent.

Grammar

As usual, things are good here. No obvious problems aside from the occasional typo, which you’ll find in any story that isn’t professionally edited. There were also a few minor errors such as mixing up the words "laid" and "lay", but nothing that distracted from the overall story. 

Character

As with style, character is where I found a lot of the book's biggest strengths and weaknesses.

The two main characters feel quirky and realistic, with a lot of their personalities woven into the story’s narrative voice. I especially liked their individual reaction scenes after they meet the second time. These scenes felt especially authentic. 

I only have one complaint about the two main characters, and that’s that they seem too similar at times. Sure, they’re very different on paper. Beatrice comes from a modest family, she's studious, tidy, and she’s training to become a priestess. Meanwhile, Emi comes from a rich family with more aloof parents. She has a messy room and she enjoys sneaking out of the house.

Middle-class vs. rich. Studious vs. rebellious. Neat vs. tidy. It seems like a case of opposites attract. But like I said, the differences here are on paper. They’re things that we’re told, but not necessarily shown in the way they act. 

While Emi is rich and upper-class, she’s extremely down to earth and somewhat street-smart (paying the neighbor kids to create a distraction while she sneaks back into her room.) While she can be slightly rebellious, she studies Economics in the library on her own, so she doesn't seem like a genuinely bad student.  While Beatrice says she wants to spread joy to everyone, she's also easily annoyed with her fellow students. In other words, their most extreme qualities are easily balanced, making them feel more alike.

The POV switches between the characters every other chapter and their narrative voices often feel very similar as well. From the moment they meet, they’re both infatuated with each other. When they meet the second time, they’re both eager to spend time together, but neither one wants to make the first move. 

They’re both quirky, nerdy, easily embarrassed, feminine, and seemingly introverted.

I bring this up because there was one point where I started reading from one character’s POV, and I couldn’t tell which one it was until I got some hint from the environment. (It had been a few days since I'd read the last chapter, and I'd forgotten their names.) So to the author, ask yourself this: if you were to write a chapter with one of the characters walking down the street (without using her name) how long would it take the readers to figure out which character it is?

As a writer, I know how hard it is to make each POV character unique. It’s hard enough when the characters are different genders or ages. Even harder in this case, when they’re both teenage girls. That’s why I think it’s all the more important to show the contrast between them. This contrast won't just make the characters feel more unique, it will open the door for more conflict later on.

Aside from the two mains, most of the other characters seem more one-dimensional so far. Beatrice even refers to her father as a stereotypical scholar. Emi’s friend, Tia, also feels like a stereotype at this point. Now, we’re still in the setup stages of the story (Chapter 10, as of this review) so there’s still time for these characters to surprise us and break free form their molds. Setting up characters who seem stereotypical and then surprising readers later is a viable strategy, so I won't be too harsh here.

Plot

There isn’t much to the plot so far besides the romance aspect. It’s clear that this is a slice of life rather than an epic fantasy, so I can’t fault the author for this. Aside from that, it’s always hard to give a decent plot review when a story is still in the setup stages.

I do see the hints of conflict here with Emi being engaged to a stranger and Beatrice becoming a priest (I’m assuming priests aren’t allowed to marry in this world?) We also get hints of a broader conflict with their city under occupation. Again, we're still in the setup stages. I don't know how long of a story the author is planning, but I would guess we're still in the first 10% right now based on the pacing. Hopefully the continues to develop these conflicts later on!

World Building

One tricky thing about world building is making the readers curious—getting them to ask questions. That way, when it’s time for answers, you have their full attention. The author pulls this off exceptionally well, giving us just enough information about the world to make us curious. 

For example, this world seems to be fairly well developed technologically, yet they have no contact with the outside world (other continents, as they put it.) This immediately makes me curious what the reasons are. Is it magical in nature? Political? We hear hints about a long distance between continents, but that seems like a minor issue for a world with at least 1800's level technology.

This world also has same-sex arranged marriages, which is something I’ve never seen in any fantasy book, ever. Bonus points for trying something original. My first question about this was whether Emi's parents took her preferences into consideration when they arranged the marriage, or whether this was a coincidence. (I found the answer by reading the comments, but I hope it’s also explained in the story.) This added a layer of nuance to Emi's relationship with her parents. They took some of her preferences into consideration (she would prefer to marry a woman) but not necessarily others (she would prefer it not be a stranger)

Historically, many Western arranged marriages gave no regard to the children's’ preferences. It’s essentially a “do your job” sort of thing. Western arranged marriages in our world also tend to be focused on producing an heir and furthering bloodlines. I would assume this world has different priorities from heirs/bloodlines, and I’m curious to see what they are.

Overall

The story sets out to do exactly what it promises: it’s a slice of life fantasy romance set in a near-modern world. The writing quality is high, the main characters feel real and authentic, and we’ve seen the first hints of some interesting conflicts and world-building. As for the minor issues mentioned above, I think most of them could be resolved with time as the story develops further.

 

Beeqs
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A deeply charming story that has me eager to read more.

 

--Style--

A very strong narrative voice and a good use of structure to create an impact on the reader. For example, the converging of the two POVs to their shared encounter was brilliant and I loved it.

--Story--

The world is vibrant and the plot is well-articulated and elegant. 

--Grammar--

A few passing issues here and there, but nothing persistent enough to really substantively gripe.

--Characters--

The central POVs are wonderfully characterized and I find myself looking forward to reading both of them, which is no meager feat. 

Keep it going and I look forward to more. 

Chunchunie
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So I guess I should also start by admitting that I rarely read romance or slice-of-life webnovels...

But I'm glad this was an exception. Hands Held in the Snow is an expertly-written, well-executed and stunning novel that whisks you away in a matter of seconds. Seriously, in terms of style, you'll find few better here on RR. The narrative voice is so beautifully delivered and immersive that I found myself ten chapters in without even realizing.

As for grammar, practically flawless. Not once was my reading experience hindered because of an error. Everything, for me, was impeccably smooth. Now I'm not saying there aren't any mistakes - because I'm sure there are - I'm saying that they're so scarce that you simply just... miss them.

The characters are absolutely adorable and a joy to read. The author has done an amazing job at creating two protagonists who are almost vastly different and yet so alike.

Another thing that's done so well is the world building. A few chapters in and we already know quite a bit about this world. And it's done in a way that isn't shoved in your face, but feels natural and is true to the pacing. For this, I have to commend the author.

In conclusion, Hands Held in the Snow is a must-read for those who enjoy slice-of-life fantasy romances. I'm not very familiar with such genres here on RR, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this book has the potential to be on the top of that list.

 

My endnote: Everyone is on Team Emi, huh? ... You know what? I'll go with Beatrice. I believe that she would come out on top in a fist fight. Underdogs ftw.

Tea777
  • Overall Score

A pleasant fantasy romance

Reviewed at: Chapter 9: Distracting

A nice slice of life romance in a city-based high fantasy setting. The story is character-focused and the two mains are adorable. I like how the author is spending time flesh out local politics. It gives supporting cast of adults surprising depth while understandably our teenage main characters are focused on their studies and *cough* romance. 

The grammar is sufficient and writing style is concise allowing for fast pace storytelling without getting bogged down in flowery description. Which is a pleasant change for this reviewer as character-based dynamics and events are emphasised. 

I look forward to future updates. 

Velara
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A Bittersweet Romance, Akin to Dark Chocolate.

Reviewed at: Chapter 17: Dad Chat

Hand's Held in the Snow is a lesbian romance novel, set in a loving detailed fantasy world, with a delightfully tense political climate. The characters have unique, thoughtfully crafted personalities, and are generally a charm to watch. 

The story itself as of this point has a well written arc, which is beginning to show signs of tension that hint at struggles the blossoming romance may face. I was also delighted to see that the author decided to make the world generally accepting of LGBT characters and struggles introduced do not related to homophobia. 

Unfortunately, the otherwise pleasant narrative was dotted with puzzling sentence structures, typos and the occasional misused word, which hampered my enjoyment. However, these problems were relatively infrequent and could be overlooked due to the strength of the narrative and the characters.

Finally, what I felt was one of the stories greatest strengths was also, unfortunately one of its greatest weaknesses. That was the narrative style that the author used. The central conceit of the story is that someone's grandmother is telling the story, and I adore some of the colour commentary it allows the author to add to their narration. However, at times the transition between first person and third person feel awkward and I sometimes am left puzzled as to how the grandmother were know the internal feelings of the characters in any given scene. 

Ultimately, Hand's Held in the Snow is a charming tale which promises a potentially bittersweet lesbian romance. It has a well crafted story and character, and absolutely delightful illustrations.And while it is at times hampered by stylistic choices and grammatical errors, I can whole heartedly recommend it despite. 

CoCop
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I'm going to start by saying that I don't usually read slice of life novels (although I don't hate them).  Also, as someone who has never been a teenage girl, I might not be the best judge for the accuracy of this work etc.

 

That said: this is an absolute gem.  It's about two girls from very different lives finding each other and dealing with all the insecurity and second guessing of having your first real relationship.

Style- It's written in a fairly interesting manner (3rd person limited with a 1st person narrator).  The pace is quick and the writing is fluid.  Each of the main characters has a distinct 'voice' that they're written in.

Grammar- there were enough double words/wrong words for me to notice it, but not enough to subtract from my enjoyment in any way.

Story/Character - The story is and the characters (the story is basically the story of the characters) are absolutely great.  Their interactions are well written as are their internal thoughts as they interact with each other.  We already have a moderate number of side characters and we have a good feel for most of them too.  The background on the world of the book is interwoven naturally into the narrative flow.

Summary: One of the better slice of life stories I have read.  Be aware of the style before you start, but it is a very good read.

Krahie
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This story is hopelessly cute. I found myself smiling during each chapter, and I caught myself wiggling around in my seat with eager excitement seeing the two girls interact. It's fluffy and precious and CUTE.

Not only is it fun and charming, but it's written very well too. As far as style and grammar goes -- excellent. I found a few small mistakes, but nothing that distracted me too much from the writing, and the rest of the prose was good enough to more than make up for it. Both the world and setting are very vivid and inviting, too. The lore is there, but it doesn't get in the way with big hunks of exposition; you learn just as much as you need to know, and other details are slowly explained throughout the story at a steady pace. The writing is also supplemented with the occasional artwork of the two protagonists, which hits just at the right moments to make the scene come to life brilliantly.

The characters and the worlds they live in are very distinct, and I found myself easily picturing the environments they explore and traverse on a daily basis, whether it be home, the marketplace's streets, or a library. I find myself hard pressed to find much to critique in this story so far.

But Beatrice and Emi better smooch, or else!

PS: It's close, but I think Emi would win in a fistfight. She definitely seems like the more rowdy type to me.