Review: “Snow White and Rose Red” by Patricia C. Wrede

In the world of fairy tales, Snow-White and Rose-Red is one that is often confused with the popular Snow White, despite the fact that these two stories are completely different in every way.  Snow White is about one princess who is forced to go into hiding because of a power-hungry, narcissistic, and murderous stepmother with serious self-esteem issues, while Snow-White and Rose-Red is even more perplexing.  Two common sisters happen to be in the right places at the right times for a “happily ever after” ending that includes handsome princes and treasure.  In fact, the entire plot of Snow-White and Rose-Red is in need of unification, for all of its themes and elements are disjointed and broken into unintelligible pieces of information.

In Patricia Wrede’s version of the tale, everything is suddenly very, very smooth, connected, and interesting.  The novel Snow White and Rose Red is rare and unique in the fact that it makes the English language sound like slowly ebbing music, fluid and beautiful.  After all, most literary critics agree that English spoken and written during the Elizabethan Era is particularly difficult to understand, belonging more to the enigma and intrigue of William Shakespeare’s many plays and poems.

Nevertheless, the author of Snow White and Rose Red obviously was very broad-minded, for she “translated” the timbres of linguistics into a comparable form of communication superior to modern English.  Eloquent, witty, and richly detailed, Snow White and Rose Red is not a jumbled, unclear fairy tale.  The storyline focuses again on two sisters, but they are extraordinary and quite “uncommon.”  Intelligent and educated, Rosamund, Blanche, and their mother are fully aware of magic and its uses.  They also live close by the border of Faerie, the magical world within the real world where the fey, or fairy folk, reside.

An enchanted prince, a terrible spell, wicked magicians, a Faerie queen, and two rosebushes—for once, magic has almost a tangible quality, especially when herbal medicine and nature take a major stand in its properties and purposes.  However, Wrede molds her new ideas of fantasy and the role of the fey in both worlds with a touch of historical background and British folklore.  Real life historical figures, myths, and religion make this “fairy tale” rejuvenate all elements that make a fantasy novel take shape and survive in a real world setting.  Then there is of course the subject of romance, which is the story’s true cornerstone.

It is love that forces John to disobey his mother and seek out his enchanted brother, just like it is compassion that draws Blanche to a lonely, distressed bear.  The author gives all these emotions the opportunity to grow by themselves instead of becoming a sort of “deus ex machina” to reward the heroines in the end.  Rosamund and Blanche have to endure witch-hunting, prejudice, and ostracism before they can be with the Faerie men they have learned to love, while their widowed mother must learn to finally accept her own knowledge and respect for magic and its potential.  The most amusing incidents happen during the interactions between the fey and the human characters, e.g. the pixie-led ventures that ultimately save the protagonists from fatal danger.

John and Hugh are undoubtedly original leading men: clever, brave and compassionate with pleasantly handsome, honest demeanors.  There are no real romantic scenes in Snow White and Rose Red, but there is enough romanticism throughout the novel to compensate for any “kissing scenes.”  The predominant religious “streak” vies with mild action scenes to create a tense atmosphere and environment for three helpless women to live in, as the hardships of life in those times were very numerous for both women and men.  The peculiarities of the Faerie world are wrapped in an aura of mystery that is left barely touched, for Snow White and Rose Red is simultaneously pragmatic, logical, and mystical in its retelling of a lesser known fairy tale.

Original review: Part 1: Remember the magic of ‘Snow White and Rose Red’Part 2: Remember the magic of ‘Snow White and Rose Red’Part 3: Remember the magic of ‘Snow White and Rose Red’,


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