WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!!!!
If you read Max and the Spice Thieves or just saw the cover, you might have thought about The Golden Compass and the panserbjørne or as they are commonly called armored bears. You are right to think that because I loved the Dark Materials Series and was inspired by it. However, snow bears are very different in many ways.
The snow bears were created by Agus the Just, or as he is referred to Nicholas Daybreaker. Agus is a powerful wizard and like his sister, Calita the Witch Queen, was very lonely. He doesn’t age and is many thousands of years old. He became lonely and decided to create the snow bears as his children, but unlike his sister, his creations were both male and female. He used bears that already existed in Arctus, and gave them the ability to turn into humans.
This idea I drew from selkies, which comes from Scottish Mythology. These were seals who could turn into humans but then hid their skins. If someone were to steal a selkie’s skin (often female) they could coerce the selkie to marry them. Without their skin, they could not return to their seal form.
In Max and the Spice Thieves, Max is saved by a couple of snow bears- Annalinda and Timbu. They lost their son because the prince of Arctus had stolen their son’s skin and died when transforming into a snow bear. The king of Arctus had the snow bear child executed, and the relations between humans and snow bears were destroyed. That is until Max reunites them to fight a common enemy- the Djinn and their Twilight Army.
Max would die from the cold because of his skin condition. Captain Cinn gives max a snow bear coat, not really understanding its magical potential. Because Max has magic inside him, he is able to use the coat to turn into a snow bear, and also learns to communicate with other snow bears through telepathy. Max is not welcome in the snow bear clan, and because he is wearing a snow bear coat, his life is in jeopardy.
The snow bears are strong and fierce. Because they are animals that turn into humans, they have to be taught what it is to be human, by their clan. That doesn’t mean they always think like or act like humans. Their purpose was to build and protect the ice palace, where Agus the Just reigned for many years. He left, and the king of the Western Isle laid claim to the palace and Arctus. Since then it has been ruled by a royal family. Linzy, the rightful heir to the kingdom, seeks the help of the Sultan in Harsu. This is where she meets Max and the crew of the Saucy Pig.
You’ll have to read the rest of the Max and the Spice Thieves to discover what happens.