Sunday, May 25, 2008
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