First Lines: Once upon a time in the middle of winter, when the flakes of snow were falling like feathers from the sky, a queen sat at a window sewing, and he frame of the window was made of black ebony. And whilst she was sewing and looking out of the window at the snow, she pricked her finger with a needle, and three drops of blood fell upon the snow.
I received this recently from the author. I was curious as to how this story would go. I’m drawn to the story of Snow White because hey, pale girls have to have someone to look up to who was admired for her snowy complexion. But I digress.
I started this over the weekend and it took me some time to get into, mostly because it’s finals week for me. The beginning is sort of depressing and heavy because Adelaide’s (“Snow White”) mother just died. At the time, it made it harder for me to get into the story. I just wasn’t in that frame of mind when I started. Looking back, though, it pretty perfectly sets the tone for the whole story.
Set in 1248 during a fierce fever that upsets Cologne, Adelaide has to deal with life changing events. First, her mother dies from the fever. This is a crushing blow to Adelaide, who has lived a pretty easy life. So many are dying daily that the local priests have stopped giving last rites. The only way to get these rites is to bribe a priest, which they do. Father Soren does something so offensive and unthinkable that Adelaide begins crafting her revenge. It has to be perfect. But how far is she willing to go with it? Will she give up what’s left of her family? Her friends?…Her life?
The pace was really good, especially once things started falling into place. It wasn’t too fast (I tend to skip sentences and lines when the pace is fast) and it wasn’t slow and boring. Great. I just made a fairy tale reference without even realizing it. Anyway. As I was saying, the story only takes place over a few weeks, so things do have to move somewhat fast. Flashbacks slow down some moments, but they give so much insight into Adelaide’s life that you sometimes want those instead of the real action. The fairytales she tells/are quoted did slow down the pace too, mostly because we already know these stories.
The real show-stealer in this story was Ivo. Oh my goodness. What a sweetheart. I’d keep reading this series just for him. He has his problems just like Adelaide, but the two of them together make such a great pair.
Adelaide was also a great character. Given the time period, she’s incredibly brave and brazen. Some of the things she does would have been greatly frowned upon at the time (and characters do frown upon her). She’s not this pansy that’s going to bow down to what others want her to do, but she isn’t a warrior either. She’s clever. I liked that she was smart and strong-willed. There were a lot of moments when she really struggled to be strong, but she was willing to lean on others when she knew she needed it.
There were a couple of things that bothered me. First of all, there were a lot of small copy errors. Some sentences were obviously changed, but a verb was left somewhere so the sentence wasn’t quite right. Adelaide once said 1247 when the rest of the book says it takes place in 1248. I didn’t know if that was intentional or not. Some of these mistakes could have easily been fixed before this went to print. (I’m an English teacher-in-training, so I notice these things.) I have an uncorrected copy of the book, so I’m not counting off for this. Now that sounded like a teacher.
Also, the title/tagline is somewhat misleading. I thought this would be a retelling, but it wasn’t. Not really. Snow White, instead of being a princess, is the daughter of a cobbler. The “queen” we’re avenging is her mother, who really isn’t a queen. And after the first third or so of the book, there weren’t any fairytales mentioned again. I think there were only three or four even quoted. It seemed weird that this was called the “fairytale keeper” when they were so scarce.
What was really cool was that the author sent me like this super pack of things with the book. There was the signed book, 10 signed bookmarks for the book, and a thank you note. That was just badass, if you ask me. Let me show you.
On the whole, though, I really enjoyed the book and seeing Adelaide take things into her own hands. I’ll be reading the sequel to see what happens.