Friday, August 12, 2011

Snow White and Rose Red

I have been on a retelling kick the past couple of weeks. It is my way of fortifying myself before reading a bunch of contemporary fiction for 9-12 year olds so I can finalize the book report list for the literature class I'm teaching. Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede was mostly enjoyable for me but I can see how it would not be enjoyed by everyone.
This novel adaptation of the Grimm tale takes place in an Elizabethan London suburb right on the edge of the forest containing the border to Faerie and manages to pull in a little from the story of Thomas the Rhymer. So lots going on. The princes in the tale are the sons of the Faerie Queen and Thomas. The youngest is transformed into a bear because of the machinations of some wizards trying to steal power from Faerie. His plight is not helped by the fact that there are powers in Faerie who want to see a break with the mortal world and feel the need to get rid of the Queen's half mortal sons. Fortunately, Blanche and Rosamund (Snow White and Rose Red) are savvy in the ways of Faerie and the daughters of a woman practiced in the magical arts of mortals. The bear prince and his brother were fortunate to stumble upon them and for their willingness to help.

The story here is an interesting one . Each chapter begins with a snippet from the original tale that covers what is taking place in the novel. The action moves from the cottage to the Faerie realm to the plotting of the wizards with stops to check on the shenanigans of the villagers. This got to be a bit much and by the end I was ready for it to be over and felt it was dragging a bit.

Due to the abundance of plot the characters were not well developed. There were simply too many of them. I enjoyed both of the princes and their friend Robin. I liked the widow's cautious practicality and willingness to help. For half the novel though I couldn't remember which girl was which. I had this problem until their prospective husbands showed up and I could match them. I am not sure I like what that is saying but that is probably mostly a problem in my own head.

Because I enjoy retellings and stories about the political maneuvering of Faerie I was able to enjoy this. It is not the best I have read of either of these. The dialogue is in Elizabethan English which might put some people off as well. If you are a  person with limited time on your hands and looking for a retelling with Faerie and Queen Elizabeth involved I would say read The Perilous Gard instead.

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