Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: Snow White and Rose Red

I found out about this book maybe a year or two ago but none of my libraries had it so it was stuck on my "to read" list. However I came across a copy of it in bookstore's inventory and the librarians let me have it for free, partially because they like me and partially because the copyright date in 1989 (it's older than meee!) and the cover looks it which would make it harder to sell.

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede
Yep, that's the cover I had except it had a blue border instead of yellow. I find it quite fugly and much prefer the more recent cover which has only one of the girls on it and is an actual photo instead of going for a photo realistic style with so many harsh face lines.

Summary: Blanche and Rosamund are the daughters of the Widow Arden and all three live on the edges of a forest that contains the border to fairy. Normally they fill their days with gathering herds and making medicinal mixtures, with the Widow fretting about accusations of witchcraft in Elizabethan England but actions in England have influenced the fairy world and those cause events in the human world leading to trouble for all parties with no clear solution.

The Good: In a lot of books the problems seem like they could be simply solved if characters either talked to each other or were a bit more creative. Well the characters here were talking to each other and being as creative as they could but spell problems managed to seem that they really were too tricky for all the characters to solve on their own. There were also many different parties involved on all sides of the conflict (Kelly and Dee, the girls and their mother, both of the Queen's sons, and then various town and faerie folk who all also had their own ambitions) and all of them, even the more minor players, were given enough time so that it was easy to keep them straight and remember what they're goals were. While the plot isn't very complicated the characters and situation still feel fully realized and make the book an interesting read.

The Bad: I've read a few things by Wrede but they were all either in her Enchanted Forest Chronicles* or the Cecelia and Kate novels so I was expecting another fantasy where the characters are no-nonsense and a radical departure from old world fairy tales. That wasn't the case here was I was rather saddened and just didn't enjoy the book as much as I hoped. This book was written before all of them** so I suppose that's before she tried the trope breaking style of writing that's become more common these days. Still, aside from me being disappointed it wasn't a bad book.

Oddly enough this book was set in Elizabethan England so it had the strange Olde English dialogue as well but I think did better than Ooku in that respect. Still threw me off and I didn't like it as much, again because I'm used to Wrede's books being set in generic fantasy land with very non-generic characters and I have seen a few other books (published later of course) that are also faerie fantasies set in Elizabethan England-esque settings (and this one did pull it off better than those). So it was an alright book, just not the book I was hoping for.

*It's no exaggeration to say that the week I read Dealing with Dragons and Tamora Pierce's Alanna was the week I feel in love with fantasy, I just loved the girl characters who didn't care they were going against all the traditions and were being awesome in the process.
**Well, wiki tells me that Talking With Dragons was actually written in 1985 but heavily revised and republished in 1995 after the other three books and that makes sense since I can see a lot of similarities between it and this.

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