Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede

Snow White and Rose Red

Patricia C. Wrede

Snow White and Rose Red live on the edge of the forest that conceals the elusive border of Faerie. They know enough about Faerie lands and mortal magic to be concerned when they find two human sorcerers setting spells near the border. And when the kindly, intelligent black bear wanders into their cottage some months later, they realize the connection between his plight and the sorcery they saw in the forest. This romantic version of the classic fairy tale features an updated introduction by its editor, Terri Windling.


Of all of the fairytales collected by the Grimm Brothers one had always stuck out as my favourite, that of Snow White and Rose Red. I can't explain exactly what about it that captured my interest, though it might have been the heroines of the storyline. Something about two sisters who vary so much yet are the best of friends have always attracted me (I wrote many stories when I was younger of fraternal twin girls; one dark of hair and the other light). So whenever I find an adaptation of the tale I find myself having to read it.

Finding an adaptation of this story is very rare however, for good reason, it is incredibly hard to adapt (I myself have an adaptation) due to its episodic nature and the fact that there are two heroines instead of one.

To say the least, when I found that Patricia C. Wrede, author of the Frontier Magic series that I absolutely adore, had long ago written an adaptation of my favourite fairytale, I put out a request for it at my library immediately.

At first, while reading it, I wasn't sure if I liked it all that much. Wrede made the decision to have it take place in Elizabethan times, complete with Shakespearean-type dialogue which made it a hard read, especially since I was reading it only a few chapters at a time. When I sat down to read it for a long run, however, I found this was no longer a challenge and I was completely sucked in by the world.

The greatest thing I loved about this book is the bringing of everything together. Every chapter began with an excerpt from the original Grimm tale, and as we got closer and closer to the known climax of the fairytale the excerpts seemed to get smaller and it became obvious that all the characters were being brought together for one final confrontation, reminding me very much of a Shakespeare play.

The book was also very close to the original fairytale, as much as I think possible while still creating a seamless story that makes sense. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Faerie and historical Elizabethan figures (And of course one can never say no to the presence of Robin Goodfellow), as it let my mind connect the story into the real world and mythology. I also think that Wrede did a fair job of explaining why some characters did what, as in the original fairytale not many reasons are shown to why characters are in the situations they are.

In Depth Spoiler Review

I enjoyed immensely how everything wrapped up in the end. There were some points where I wondered if, for instance, Joan's meddling would have actually caused the widow harm, even if her daughters had been married away and thus no longer in danger, but as with this Grimm fairytale it is happy endings for everyone good and punishment for those who caused mischief.

The other thing I enjoyed was the use of John, as Hugh's brother. In the original fairytale, almost as if an afterthought, there is a line that says: And Rose Red married his brother; out of the blue. They are given no courtship and it is much of a disservice to Rose Red that is probably the thing I like the least in the original tale. So to see Wrede giving the brother a proper character, role and courtship was truly gratifying. It also pleased me that it really didn't upset the tale at all too much, though it's not a perfect retelling (and really, who wants that?) it sticks to the general outline, taking some things to metaphor which I found cool.

Overall I recommend this to any fairytale lover (or anyone who loved Goose Girl by Shannon Hale), any lover of Elizabethan language and stories about Faerie. It is not however traditional Patricia C. Wrede style, so I wouldn't pick this up for the sole reason that she is the author (though I do believe she is a masterful one).

The dialogue is hard to get used to at first, but I feel it does more of a service than a disservice to the book, so I recommend you to continue reading it if that is distracting you.



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