I can recall some stories I've read here that I enjoyed or even loved for some reason, but I have *never* been so enchanted and enraptured by one until "The Snow Maid."
We start with a man ready to die, who happens to see something that might make his final moments passable, then he ends up recovering with Polina. At first you confused me with the constant name-changing, but I rode it out and understood why there was the triple reference. I loved how she nursed him back to health and especially how they both grew younger and actually developed a plausible friendship--to the extent she loved all his "dad" jokes--which completed her sudden, final transformation into the Maid. I don't know what charmed me more: their banter, him treating her gentlemanly or both of them holding back so they didn't force themselves upon the other! When they finally couple, what a glorious union! It was teased, hinted at until it exploded onto the scene. You wove such a rich tapestry of sentiment, thoughts and company together into such an incredibly tender scene. I guess I can best summarize it as a slow burn and a slow seduction and all the classic great lit markers are there: non-understanding of the real situation/denial/grudging acceptance/realization and then full-blown wham! By the time they unite themselves, they pleasure each other so wonderfully and none of it feels forced. Either you redacted this marvellously on your own, you had a skilled editor or some combination of the two...but I can't think of a single thing you could have improved. I even loved him changing her hair to curly red! While I thought you would choose the actual traditional "romantic" interpretation (they burn brightly but then die), you took a classic, mystical tale to a modern, happy ending! She even loves Mexican food and he's talking to kids about the Snow Maid!
Totally sensational, charming and completely satisfying to both the mind and senses. A hands-down 5. :)
(reviewed the day of purchase)