My rating: 4 of 5 Stars
How I Got It: NetGalley
Publication Date: September, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Point of View: 3rd Person
Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling
First, let me say thanks to NetGalley for letting me review a copy of this gorgeous book. It was such a pleasure to read!
So I went into this with very little idea what I was getting into. I kind of knew that it was a "Snow White" retelling, and I'd heard the word "feminist" bandied about in regards to it. With that in mind, I'd kind of expected a battles-and-violence sort of book with a kickass Snow White empowered with lethal magic, waging war against her evil stepmother.
What I got was something much more beautiful. And much more subtle.
WHAT I LOVED
This book was exquisitely crafted. I hate to use the word "poetic," because I'm afraid that will give you an idea that it's heady or difficult reading. It's not. Not at all! It's just so beautifully written that the words glide along the page and into your imagination with absolute clarity, creating vivid pictures of the world and the people in it. This author knows her way with a pen, let me tell you!
I loved how the book was balanced between our Snow White heroine--Lynet--and her stepmother, Mina. If anything, I found myself drawn more to Mina's chapters. She made for a formidable "wicked stepmother" character, but she was portrayed with such care that you do love her and feel for her, even when she is spiraling deeper into darkness. Lynet makes for an excellent foil, such a counterpoint to Mina's POV . . . and yet the two of them are so much more alike than they first seem!
That relationship between Mina and Lynet is the heart and soul of this book. It's a mother-daughter relationship . . . sort of. And it's heart-wrenching and tragic and yet hopeful at the same time.
There is a romance in this book as well, as befits a fairy tale retelling. But it's very sweet and very secondary to the main storyline. It's just prominent enough to add grace notes to an otherwise much more complex melody. What a nice change from typical YA fair, in which the romance tends to overwhelm the real plot! (And Nadia, the young surgeon, was lovely, in an earnest, flawed sort of way. I would read a whole book about her!)
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE SO MUCH
I will admit, I felt the story lost some momentum after about the 60% mark. I still wanted to see how it turned out--and I still thought the writing was beautiful--it was just that right when I expected the action to really ratchet up a notch, it kind of backtracked instead.
The ending too felt maybe a little bit too . . . convenient. Things wrap up neatly, but almost too neatly. Not that I wanted a tragic ending! After how deeply invested I'd become to these characters, I definitely wanted some major Happily Ever Afters. But I felt like there ultimately weren't any consequences for the major actions. Therefore things felt a little easy in the long run.
But you know what? That's just a minor quibble on my part. On the whole, this was one of the best fairy tale retellings I've ever read, a stand-out in the genre. It's feminist, but not in an over-the-top bombastic sort of way. This is solid, foundational, core-value feminism, starting with mothers and daughters and building from there. It's beautiful and vital and empowering.
If you like fairy tale retellings at all, you should definitely give this book a try. And even if you don't . . . read it anyway. Seriously, it's good.