Sunday, May 25, 2008

This is Definitely NOT Walt Disney's Snow White....


Fairy Tales. Who doesn't love a good Fairy Tale?? I think we all do. Face it. There is just something heartwarming about the "Happily Ever After" idea. Especially when it's mixed up with a little fantasy. It's one of the categories that Carl has chosen for the Once Upon a Time II Challenge, and it's the reason I choose to read White as Snow (White as Snow, Red as Blood: A Dark, Sensual Retelling of Snow White) by Tanith Lee (320 pgs, Tor Books). This book is a part of Terri Windling's Fairy Tale Series. It has an amazing cover by artist Thomas Canty. Unfortunately, this is the best part of the book!

Once Upon a Time, in winter, there was a mirror. And this mirror was a gift to 14-year-old Arpazia, the King's daughter. But when the brutal Draco conquered all the land, Arpazia and the mirror were both taken over. But instead of killing her like most of the King's people, he took her with him. When she became pregnant after he brutally raped her, Draco decides that he must marry her and make Arpazia Queen of the new land. When a daughter was born, Arpazia wanted nothing to do with the child. She could barely bring herself to acknowledge the girl, named Candacis (or Coira).

First off, I have to say, I wanted to like this story. I like the idea that a simple tale is taken and made into a darker story. The Book of Lost Things used that very same idea and I loved it. But White as Snow was just lacking something. Or maybe it wasn't that is was lacking, but that it contained TOO much. Not only was Tanith Lee retelling the Snow White tale, but she was trying to compare it to classic Greek Myth of Demetra and Persephone, where Persephone as the daughter was a younger "self" of Demetra. She also tries to parallel the story of Persephone being taken into the underworld by Hades. Then there is also the storyline of Arpazia joining in the pagan ceremonies with the wood's people. Oh....and finally she tries to equate the Seven Drawfs with the Seven Deadly Sins. What comes out of all these metaphors and parallels is just one big jumbled mess.

And even if the storyline was a little more clear cut, the characters are such lifeless creatures that I just wanted to scream. Arpazia starts out being a victim. She is totally justified in her hate of the King and even her reasons for not wanting to be around her daughter. But once you start feeling a little sympathy for her, Lee just turns her into a complete loon. And Coira is such a boring character. She is completely without emotion. When her own mother pays someone to kill her, does she get angry or resentful? No. Life sucks. That's it. Nothing you can do to change your destiny. Coira was little like a goth in that fashion. "The whole world was against me, and I guess I just have to suffer for it." The guard took the pouch, examined it, and let them into Hell's mansion. This was like life, too. You must even pay to be abused, as you were punished for being hurt. Sheesh. It really got on my nerves.

Normally I would love a retelling of a known fairy tale that turns a dwarf named Stormy into the romantic lead, and the handsome prince into the king of Hell, who just happens to be a crazed, sex-obsessed, narcissistic necrophiliac. (Yep, Lee really does go there!) But this book just left me cold. I think part of the problem is that a lot of Lee's writing in this book is stream of consciousness. Something that I'm not fond of to begin with. Top that with characters that I just plain hated and you've got a book that did less than nothing for me. And I so wanted to like it, but White as Snow was such a struggle for me to read. Better luck next time, I guess! I would still like to try another in this series. Let's hope that it's just Snow White that gives me to the Blues! 2/5

10 comments:

Nymeth said...

It's too bad this one was disappointing for you, but you know, you've actually made me curious! Stream of consciousness is definitely not a style that works for everyone. For me, sometimes it works, sometimes it goes horribly wrong.

As for the rest of the Fairy Tales series, give Jane Yolen's Briar Rose a try. I can't imagine you not liking that one!

Rhinoa said...

Rubbish I am sorry you didn;t enjoy this more. I have a copy I hope to get around to probably next year. I have read a few others in this series and have loved them so far so I hope I like it more than you did. Hopefully your next read will be better.

Debi said...

Yeah! Finally a book I don't have to add to my wish list. ;) Though your review really did leave me smiling.
But I am sorry you didn't enjoy it! It sucks to think that you could have spent that time reading something you would have loved, doesn't it?

Teddy Rose said...

Great review and thanks for the warning. LOL! I will skip this one.

Melody said...

I'm sorry that this book doesn't work for you, Stephanie. Let's hope the next book will be better!

John Mutford said...

Too bad. Interesting that people are putting dark spins on the fairy tales. Snow White especially started out pretty dark, Disney sterilized the tale. Now it looks like it's going back to its roots. Not successfully in this case, but interesting nonetheless.

Jessica said...

Didn't mean to hijack your blog but I couldn't find an email address. I read your comment on The Sleepy Reader that you wouldn't be reading Moose: A Memoir Of Fat Camp by stephanie Klein because she feels it had sex in it. I wanted to say how sad I thought that was. Sexual exploration and discovery are integral to adolescence. I found MOOSE not to be gratuitous at all but honest and a pure voice of the subject matter. You miht want to give yourself the opportunity to read it.

Carl V. said...

"Necrophiliac...this book just left me cold" You're quite the comedian! ;)

Sometimes these sort of things work and sometimes they don't. When they work they can be some of the richest and most rewarding reads possible. When they don't they are a big mess.

naida said...

sorry this one wasnt so great.
I hate it when a book is dissapointing, it feels like a waste of time.

http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

Fence said...

That's too bad, it does sound like it could be a great retelling. I've read one of two of Tanith Lee's books before and from what I remember I wasn't that impressed. Maybe it is her style of writing>