It"s a retelling of the Snow Queen, which I've always found a beautifully uncomfortable tale, and Breadcrumbs nails it. It's one of those stories about stories, but it's nowhere near as simple as that. It reminds me of The Life of Pi, in the way that fantasy could actually just be all in your head but is no less real because of it. Breadcrumbs is a fairy tale, several, in fact, but it is also a problem novel about friendship and family and fitting in. Hazel's relationship with Jack is exquisitely drawn. Her loneliness at school is a character in itself. And the overlap between the real world and the magical wood is painfully realistic. The story of the matchgirl brought me to tears.
I'm going to have to reread my Hans Christian Anderson. His stories have always bothered me: even the ones with happy endings are still so sad. Anne Ursu gets Hans Christian Anderson. Someone (not me!) is going to write a thesis on what she does with his characters and themes. I'll just say that Ursu gets why someone would go with the White Witch into the wood, and she gets the price to set him free.
Beautiful writing, beautiful story. And if there were Academy Awards for authors, Ursu would get the one for best use of allusions to favourite kids' books!
Breadcrumbs is the taste of fresh snow when you've been cross-country skiing through the woods and you're hot and thirsty and the snow is so white and fluffy and it tastes cleaner than anything and it's so cold it hurts your heart when you swallow.
Be sure to check out the origin of MMGM: Shannon Messenger's blog, where she links to all the other MMGMers with their excellent recommendations.
*And I just discovered a weird sort of symmetry: Kate Coombs liked the Chronus Chronicles so much that she commented on my review of them, which led me to discover her blog, which led to me reading her book The Runaway Princess, which I just reviewed last week. (The blogosphere is a strange, spiraling galaxy of a virtual place!)