Author: Catherine M. Valente
Publisher: Saga Press
Publishing Date: November 10, 2015
“In my experience, folk find it nigh on impossible to call a thing what it is.”
Mr. H, a Nevada silver baron, blackmails the Crow people into giving up one of their most beautiful daughters for in marriage. This leads to the birth of the child we will later know as Snow White.
She has been born into a world where she is too white to be Crow, and too Crow to be white. After having been hidden for years, a stepmother comes into the picture gifting the girl with the name Snow White. A name referring to the pale skin she will never have. This Western novel gives us a look at the hard lives lived in this olden time, and something that is both familiar and unique.
Pros & Cons
I think one of my absolute favorite parts of this novel is Valente’s ability to create an entirely unique spin on this classic retelling. Most retellings, I feel anyway, are so closely related to the original that at times they’re hard to tell apart. That is just not the case with this book.
Valente doesn’t rely on 7 dwarves to aid Snow White. No, she uses 7 women; women who have all experienced rough lives, making them relatable to Snow. She doesn’t paint Snow White as this animal-enchanting-princess, rather, she paints her as a rugged human who is close enough to being wild that wildlife itself accepts her. You can forget about some Prince Charming coming to save the day! Charming is the name of her horse, and he is her saving grace.
As far as “cons” are concerned, I didn’t have much to complain about with this novel. Granted, it was a fantastic book so obviously I wish it was a bit longer than 154 pages, but that’s neither here nor there. I felt the book left off a bit weak in the end, though. The conclusion didn’t make sense to me, and with such a strong novel, strong underlying messages and symbolism, I expected the end to be equally as impactful. I didn’t really get that from this novel, unfortunately. Additionally, I did find that it was easy to get confused by the writing style at times. It matches the setting of the book (Old Western) and being that our language has shifted entirely since then certain terms and phrases left me sitting in the dark. That’s not the fault of the author, though, that’s just ignorance on my end.
This isn’t a novel with a ton of characters for you to nitpick which is your favorite and least favorite. It’s not the kind of novel where you get to see someone’s personality, or where you get to fall in love with their little quirks. The only character we really get close with is Snow White, and even then it is very limited.
Of course if you’ve already read this novel you’ll understand my next statement a bit better: I hated everyone. Snow White was really the only person I ever felt compassion for, and everyone else just left me angry. BUT… the brokenness of the human race in its entirety makes me angry. Just as we get mad at abusive parents for abusing their children, and are equally angry at the grandparents who abused the parents thus creating abusers, that is the cycle of emotions I experienced in this book. Humanity is flawed, and those flaws that cause hurting people to hurt other people tends to leave me rather upset.
This novel is powerful, and gritty. It’s not a “feel-good” book with a list of characters you love a mile wide. No, it’s raw, it’s angry, and it’s real, which is exactly what makes it such a fantastic read! I would have given it 5 stars had it not been for the blasted ending which just left me stumped. I will warn that this novel deals with scenes of rape, death, murder, and racism. It has course language, and is not intended for children. It is an ADULT RETELLING, and is not to be confused with the Disney-fied version of the story. For this reason I suggest that this novel be for ages 16+. I really enjoyed reading this, and hopefully you will, too!
“She named me a thing I could aspire to but never become, the one thing I was not and could never be: Snow White.”
“For myself I thought: This is how you make a human being. A human being is beautiful and sick. A human being glitters and starves.”
“Love is what grown folk do to each other because the law frowns on killing.”
“Magic is just a word for what’s left to the powerless once everyone else has eaten their fill.”
“You can tell a true story about your parents if you’re a damn sight good at sorting lies like laundry, but no one can tell a true story about themselves.”
“Opium ain’t got nothing on the promise of tomorrow turning up better than today.”
“Once you take away the end in sight, not much left to do but pull up the ground over your head. Sometimes the next no is the last one you can take.”
“Your past’s a private matter, sweetheart. You just keep it locked up in a box where it can’t hurt anyone.”
“The worst thing in the world is having to go back to the dark you shook off.”
“… Twice means you wanted it…”