White as Snow: A dark, richly archetypal novel

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Tanith Lee White as SnowWhite as Snow by Tanith Lee

A maiden is kidnapped. Her mother searches for her, disguised as an old beggar woman. A deadly fruit is eaten. The maiden dies, but not necessarily for good…

Depending on how you flesh out the rest of the tale, this could either be the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, or the fairy tale “Snow White.” Tanith Lee weaves the two together in White as Snow until it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. The myth and the fairy tale fit together well in Lee’s hands; the book follows both storylines and made me realize just how much symbolism the two stories have in common in the first place. It is a testament to Lee’s skill that after reading the book, I began to seriously wonder whether the fairy tale truly is a corrupted version of the myth, distorted over the centuries. Whether there is any real connection, the world may never know, but for the duration of White as Snow, Lee makes us believe it.

This is a very dark novel, and not for the squeamish. In addition, I had trouble sympathizing with the characters. They seem emotionally cold throughout much of the book. It makes sense, given their traumatic pasts, but it doesn’t make it any easier to relate to them. Still, four solid stars for a richly archetypal novel.

White as Snow — (2000) Publisher: In a novel-length tale of dark fantasy based on the fairy tale “Snow White,” Arpazia and her unwanted daughter, Coira, conceived inviolence during the sacking of her Arpazia’s father’s castle, are lured into the woods by the elder gods, who are seeking to restore their worship in a magical land in which a new religion threatens to transform life for everyone.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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