Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review: Fairest of All by Serena Valentino

Title: Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen
Series/Sequel? No
Author: Serena Valentino
Genres: Fairytale retellings, old-fashioned fiction
Age Level: YA (12-18)
Page Count: 250 (Hardcover) 
Summary from inside flap of book: The tale of the young princess SNow White and her evil stepmother the Wicked Queen is widelt known. Despite a few variations from telling to telling,the story remains the same - the Queen was jealous of the girl's beauty, and this jealousy culminated in the Queen's attempt on the sweet, naive girl's life. 

Another tale far less often spojen of is the one that explains what caused the Queen to become so contemptuously vile. Still, some have attempted to guess at the reason. Perhaps the Queen's true nature was that of a wicked hag and her beautiful, regal appearance a disguise used to fool the King. Others claim that the Queen might have hated the girl for her resemblance to the Queen's first wife. Mostly, the Queen is painted as a morally abhorrent woman who never loved another being during the course of her miserable life. 

In fact, the theories about exactly what caused the Queen's obsessive vanity and jealous rage are too numerous to catalog. This book recounts a version of the story that has remained untold until now. It is a tragic tale of love and loss, and it contains a bit of magic. It is a tale of the Wicked Queen...

Review: When I saw this book at the bookstore, the thing that drew me in was the cover. Because look at it - is it not a gorgeous cover? When I picked up this book and read the inside flap, the thing that drew me in was how it was a retelling of Snow White, supposedly making the Wicked Queen... un-wicked. I've always been interested in that type of story, giving the villain a reason for being a villain.

It started slow. So slow, that, even a couple pages in, I was looking at the page numbers and thinking How much do I have left to read? But then I forced myself to ignore the page numbers and actually read the story, and I found out that it was a decent tale.

This is a fairytale retelling in a way I've never seen it done. The Wicked Queen - who doesn't seem to have a name, but just is called "the Queen" - is shown in a different light. Which, I guess, was kinda the point of the entire story. But it gives reasons for her being horrible and awful to everyone. It gives a different reason besides pure vanity that she looked in the Mirror every day and asked who was the fairest of them all. It gave reasons for everything that she did in the classic tale. For it wasn't so much vanity or just... horrible-ness... but grief. It was amazing all the back-story the author was able to create - and make it it sound plausible and reasonable.

A couple problems I had with it: The storytelling was very childish. Well, maybe not childish, but it was very "Once upon a time..." But that, considering the topic, was appropriate. It's written in third person, in that very fairytale kind of way. I also didn't like how it didn't give the Queen, the King, or the Prince (the one who awakens Snow with Love's First Kiss and all that) any names. They were called by their titles throughout the entire book. In books, one of the things I find most interesting about characters are their names. Do their names have anything to do with their personality? Is their foreshadowing in their names? I wish the the author had given them names. My third and last complaint: I feel as if the ending left a little something to be desired. It made sense where it ended, it's just... the words and the meaning of the words they used - not the actual definition, but what it means as a metaphor or whatever - were confusing the first time I read them. I had to read them again to really understand it and all it meant.

If you like fairytale retellings, I would suggest this for you!


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