In honor of Once Upon a Time Week, here's a (slightly expanded) reprise of a book I wrote a quick review of, that got buried in a post that was full of other books.
Fairest of All, A Tale of the Wicked Queen, by Serena Valentino (Disney Press, 2009, 250 pages). Valentino pulls off quite an accomplishment with this book--she tells the story of Snow White from the "evil" stepmother's point of view, making the Queen a sympathetic character. For the Queen was not always evil--once she was the young bride of the king, finding in her love for him and his little girl happiness that had escaped her growing up under the shadow of a truly evil father. But her father, even though ostensibly dead, still casts a shadow over her life, lingering in the sinister magic mirror that haunts her. The mirror's twisted messages to her, combined with the malevolent doings of three old women, distant cousins of the king, gradually drive the queen to madness and cruelty toward her beloved step-daughter.
She is as much a victim as Snow White, caught in an evil magic not of her own making, and her story is a compelling one, full of vivid imagery and tense emotional drama.
The cover, I think, is rather horrid. It does the book an injustice--although plenty dark toward the end, much of the book is not so black as the cover would suggest, and the Queen is, as I said, a sympathetic character. I would have chosen a cover showing her in a beautiful dress, in a brightly lit room, with the mirror front and center. Recommended highly to fans of fairy tale retellings.
(review copy received as part of my involvement with the Cybils Awards last year)