sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 30, 2009

into the stacks: snow
posted by soe 11:08 pm

Snow, by Tracy Lynn

From the jacket: “In a tiny Welsh estate, a duke and duchess lived happily, lacking only a chil — or, more importantly, a son and heir to the estate. Childbirth ultimately proved fatal for the young duchess. After she died, the duke was dismayed to discover that he was not only a widower, but also father to a tiny baby girl. He vowed to begin afresh with a new wife, abandoning his daughter in search of elusive contentment. Independent — virtually ignored — and finding only little animals and a lonely servant boy as her companions, Jessica is pale, lonely, and headstrong … and quick to learn that she has an enemy in her stepmother. ‘Snow,’ as she comes to be known, flees the estate to London and finds herself embraced by a band of urban outcasts. But stepmother isn’t finished with her…”

My take: This was one of the novels I picked up from Riverby Books last month. I’m always interested in retellings of classic tales and this one sounded like it had potential for being a compelling version of “Snow White.”

Although the story takes place in 1920s Great Britain, Jessica (and her stepmother, Anne, for that matter) is a heroine with modern sensibilities, placing it firmly in the category of steampunk fiction.

Jessica is still a young girl when her father, a man from whom she is mostly estranged, remarries a woman from far away. She looks forward to the idea of finally having a mother, but is disappointed when the English duchess seems more interested in spending time with her new husband and behind closed doors than with caring for her. Yet with Anne’s arrival also comes Alan, a boy musician only a few years older than Jessica, who is kind and interested in chatting with her when he isn’t helping the Duchess with her scientific experiments.

As with the original tale, Jessica, or “Snow,” as she becomes known, angers her stepmother, who is unsuccessful at giving her husband another child, by growing more and more beautiful as she matures. Eventually, Anne, whose earlier diabolical science experiments are merely hinted at, decides the only way to become pregnant is to create a Frankenstein’s monster-style child. The key to this is to procure a human heart — and the Duchess has a specific one in mind.

Alan, who wears a magical charm that forbids both his lying to the Duchess or to telling others of her madness, convinces Jessica that she must flee if she values her life. She makes for London, where, this being a fairy tale, she is promptly pickpocketed and left penniless and hungry.

When she is discovered squatting on turf belonging to a gang of five (not seven) misfits, she must begin to build a new life for herself, to learn to trust again, and to decide what — and who — makes a family.

Snow isn’t of the same caliber as some other fantasy stories, and it inconsistently crosses that line between storytelling and breaking down the barrier between reader and narrator. As an interesting retelling of a story we all know forward and back, though, it’s definitely worth the couple hours necessary to read it. I’d recommend it as a library loan for those who love fantasy and fairy tales.

Pages: 259

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