I may have a new rule when reading Valente. First give the book five stars. Then read the awesomeness. Repeat and enjoy. No review I do will ever do justice to her works.
Fairytale deconstruction is hard to do, which is why parody is so much more common. Snow White may be the silliest fairytale I can think of. I am therefore kind of amazed that my favorite deconstruction efforts both deal with Snow White; Neil Gaiman’s short story ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ and this new effort by Valente.
Snow White in this tale is named not for her pure white skin, but rather the skin her stepmother sees as the ideal in beauty. All the elements we know are there, and each is brilliantly redefined. I especially loved how Snow White one-upped the huntsmen, and the reasoning for the step-mother wanting a heart. The magic is very subtle; with only one exception a reader would almost wonder if it is there at all or just the view of the narrator.
I am not a reviewer that spends much time breaking down the authors writing style and prose but I can surely recognize it when it is above the genre’s average. Not as dense as other books by Valente, it never less had a beauty in it’s easy to read style. The voice was a joy to read, both when it was in the first person from Snow White, and a conversationalist third person narrator in the second half. Fast paced and short, this is the type of book I used to read in one sitting (oh to have that kind of time again!)
The genius of Valente is that the book works on two levels. If I was able to find a reader not familiar with Snow White it would STILL be a beautiful little fantasy story with just the right amount of wonder, action, and mystery. The old west backdrop is quickly becoming a favorite fantasy setting for me; I hope more authors jump on this train.
But of course everyone who reads the book is familiar with Snow White, and of course it makes the book that much better. What do you want? I already discussed the huntsman and step mother. There are also seven dwarfs, strong resilient women with diverse backgrounds who run a town. Prince Charming? Oh, I won’t spoil that one. Kiss to wake a sleeping princess? Got a couple of them, but there is no need for a hero prince here. Valente keeps everything, yet changes it all, without ever taking the easy way out and just mocking the traditional story.
I only had one complaint in the slightly anti climatic ending. The need to wrap everything up added something I am not sure the story needed, but it was short enough to affect my enjoyment not at all. I thought about complaining about how short the story is, but when it did everything it needed to why should I wish for it to be longer?