Keywords: adult, fairy tale retelling, mild horror
Once upon a time there was a mirror. . . .
So begins this dark, unusual retelling of the story of Snow White by the writer reviewers have called “the Angela Carter of the fantasy field”—a whole novel based on a beloved story, turning it into a dark and sensual drama full of myth and magic.
Arpazia is the aging queen who paces the halls of a warlord’s palace. Cold as winter, she has only one passion—for the mysterious hunter who courts the outlawed old gods of the woodland. Coira is the princess raised in the shadow of her mother’s hatred. Avoided by both her parents and half forgotten by her father’s court, she grows into womanhood alone . . . until the mirror speaks, and blood is spilled, and the forest claims her.
The tragic myth of the goddess Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, stolen by the king of the underworld, is woven together with the tale of Snow White to create a powerful story of mothers and daughters and the blood that binds them together, for good or ill. Black queen. White maid. Royal huntsman. Seven little folk who live in the forest. Come inside, sit by the fire, and listen to this fairy tale as you’ve never heard it told before.
I do so adore Tanith Lee. So when I picked up White as Snow I was expecting something good; I was not disappointed.
The story follows two main threads: Arpazia and Coira, mother and daughter. They are very similar and extremely different, serving as mirrors of the other. The whole setup is quite breathtaking and tells a Snow White story unlike any before.
The imagery, the mythology woven into the tale, and the directions it took me in emotionally and psychologically were all new, refreshing, and interesting. I enjoyed not knowing how the story would end despite the brutality the story threw at you at times.
I have a few complaints, but they are all stylistic narrative choices that were taken. I did find the narrative to ramble on at points, whether this was due to a PoV character’s frame of mind or authorial decisions I don’t know, but it dragged a little in those areas. Nevertheless, without fail it always picked up again and threw me back into the story.
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