Book Review: The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David C. Meredith
Snow White lived decades of her happy-ever-after, but when Charming dies she is sent reeling into a depression. Not even their daughter, Raven’s, upcoming marriage can snap Snow White out of it. When wandering the halls of the castle, desperately seeking to be alone, she re-enters her old step-mother’s quarters. Now covered in dust, she discovers her stepmother’s magic mirror, which she never knew about before. The discovery will have far-reaching consequences.
This is my first read of the 12 indie books I accepted for review here in 2014 (see the whole list). I surprised myself a bit, reaching first for the fantasy, but I was in the perfect mood for a slightly pensive retelling of a fairy tale. The book takes an interesting angle for retelling the story, jumping ahead to Snow White’s elderly years, but it unfortunately doesn’t reimagine Snow White herself quite enough.
The narrative choice of having an elderly Snow White discover her stepmother’s magic mirror that then forces her into introspection on herself and her life is a great idea that works well. We already all know the end of the fairy tale, so flipping it on its head to start at the end addresses that fact head-on. Now the question isn’t, will this fairy tale end the way all the other retellings do. Instead, it looks on a psychological level at the impact of Snow White’s early years on her later ones. It also is an interesting way to address end of life issues. Snow White is elderly and stuck in a bit of a rut. She’s uncertain how to go on without her husband of so many years. These are relevant issues that don’t get addressed often enough in literature, and re-using the Snow White fairy tale to look at them works wonderfully. It thus is a familiar story and setting with a different focus, which is a great tact to take for a fairy tale retelling.
Snow White herself, however, hasn’t been tweaked enough to make for an interesting heroine. I admit, I was hoping for someone who either had found or would find her own strength. The Snow White we see in Disney and other retellings really is a bit of a shrinking violet. This Snow White stays that way. Over and over she is the helpless girl who must be rescued by others. She doesn’t flee the castle, someone else tells her, practically forces her to. She is then saved first by the dwarves and then by Charming. Later in her life, after leaving the official fairy tale, we find that she is a simpering clueless virgin on her wedding night who must be guided by Charming. Then even later she is heinously assaulted by some ladies of her court, and she again must be saved by someone else. Even in the end of her life, she doesn’t pick herself up and continue on. A magic mirror knocks some sense into her. Because fairy tales often remove so much agency from the “good” women in them (only evil women are allowed agency), I prefer to see retellings give the women more agency. Snow White could still have the character flaw of being a bit timid and eventually learn how to save herself. It’s not an all-or-nothing scenario. The way Snow White and her story is presented here reads a bit too traditionally medieval. I want a retelling to take me new places with the character, not extend the same ones.
This issue alone would have led me to give the book 4 stars, but, unfortunately, the book is riddled with spelling and grammar errors. I only marked the most egregious ones, and I still had 12 on my list. Issues such as saying someone laid down in the floor, instead of on the floor (loc 2302), putting the apostrophe in the wrong place (“princes’ tongue” instead of “prince’s tongue” (loc 1315) ), and just flat-out using the wrong word (“followed suite” instead of “followed suit” (loc 1084) ) sorely damaged my enjoyment of the novel. I don’t expect perfection from authors or editors, we are all human, but more than a few errors is something that truly negatively impacts the reading of the novel.
Overall, this retelling of Snow White takes the interesting angle of focusing on the end of her life. This allows the author to explore issues relevant to the elderly, such as losing long-term loved ones and coming to terms with the path your life has taken. Although this plot gives the fairy tale a new focus and extended plot, Snow White herself has not been updated at all. She is still the simpering violet who must be saved by all around her. Some readers may be bothered by the number of errors in the spelling and grammar in the book. Recommended to fans of traditional fairy tales with only a slight twist who won’t be bothered by a lack of editing for spelling and grammar.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review