Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede, which was our July book club pick, is a retelling of a fairy tale. In this rendition, the tale is set in England, and the characters are a bit modified. Wrede says in the afterword that the original fairy tale had gaps and characters appeared and disappeared, leaving their motivations out of sight for the most part. Here, Wrede contrives to make motivations fit the story, which mirrors the original very closely.
The language used here to mimic Elizabethan times but, in so doing, the dialogue was very stilted and hard to engage with for a good portion of the book. While the language may have been to authenticate the time period, some of it was off in terms of usage and slowed the pace of the tale considerably. However, her use of John Dee and Edward Kelly as the wizards in the town of Mortlak, who cause harm to the world of Faerie, was inspired, though even just Kelly would have been enough here.
Rosamund (Rose Red) and Blanche (Snow White) are the daughters of the Widow Arden (forest) who live on the outskirts of town near the land of Faerie, and while they tend to stay outside the forest and only use the herbs found within its borders for good, they have skills that other townsfolk only speculate about. It is there in the woods that they find all manner of plants, including elecampane, which is native to central Asia. Is this the work of the fay? Or a miscalculation on Wrede’s part? It’s unclear.
Wrede also relies on the continuation of “work” over several dayson more than one occasion without going into depth about the failed experiments, etc. This also slows the pace of the fairy tale down. Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede is a satisfactory retelling of a well-known fairy tale, but what is unclear still is the motivations of one set of evildoers — the fay. While the mortals clearly seek fame and fortune in their magic renderings, the fay involved in the spell-casting seem to have muddy reasoning for their part in it.
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