Fairest of All, A Tale of the Wicked Queen, by Serena Valentino

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)


  1. Well, the cover is a reflection of the Disney ideal... which is that she was a.) Evil, b.) Dark, and c.) Evil and Dark go hand in hand. Weird, that. Just once, I'd like to see a blonde villainess.

    Sorry. It's probably tiresome that I keep noticing things like that, but that's how I'm wired; if I hadn't discovered sociology so late in my college career, I would have never been an English major!

  2. Oooh fairy tale retellings from different points of view are always interesting for me! I'll take note of this one.

  3. Well, there was the White Witch in the Narnia movie who was blond--but then, she was the White witch, after all...and that wretched woman in the Golden Compass--she was blond, wasn't she? but much was made of her beauty and charisma, so that might be an exception that proves the rule...

    I bet you'd enjoy this one, Chachic!

  4. I love fairy tale retellings! I used to read lots of the funny picture book retellings to my elementary students.

  5. Ooh, this one does look fun and interesting, though I agree that cover is dreadful.

  6. Sounds like an interesting retelling. Thanks for sharing it.


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