Fairest of All | Serena Valentino

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This is definitely an easy read. Far too easy to qualify as being targeted for teens, but, this is the opinion of someone who liked to read things written by Jackie Collins and Stephen King during my teen years, so take my review with a bag of salt.

There is some interesting language in this book from time to time. Things like “Her skin was fairer than a virgin snowfall” and “in a secret place buried deep within her heart she wished somehow she could absorb the beauty of this child, so she herself would truly be beautiful” that deepen the meaning of the beloved Disney Classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. That selling point (coupled with the cover art) made me excited to dive into this book, as reading original interpretations on things that I already love is always interesting for me.

I appreciated the fast pace…at first. When I started reading this book, I was skating through the pages of my Kindle, eyes dancing quickly across the words until I got about halfway through and everything really started to drag. But before I elaborate on all that, I want to say just how adorable childhood Snow is. We know that Snow has truly embraced her stepmother (the Evil Queen, not yet evil at this point in the story) as she begins referring to her birth mother as “my first mother”, and calls the Queen “mother”. This is just a little bit heartwarming to see a child so fully accept a stepparent into her life. Of course, as time moves on, and the King dies in war, Snow still calls the Queen “mother”, although she has stopped behaving like a parent as she becomes consumed with her own grief.

This makes the characters relatable…at first, but as the Queen’s grief drags on and she is totally swallowed by the loss of the only man who’s ever loved her, she pushes everyone else away, including a servant, who was her closest friend, who was banished because her beauty outshone the Queen’s. Of course, naturally, when Verona (the friend) was sent away, she met a wonderful man and fell in love, got married, and was able to forgive the Queen’s unkindness. But, forever obsessed with her own reflection, the Queen could not manage to put other people’s feelings foremost or to treat her loved ones with respect and value, so she… more or less turns Snow White into a castle slave. Unbelievable.

Of course, the story is familiar, yet unfamiliar at once with its being about Snow White and the Queen’s story. Well, really more about how the Queen became evil. Which is another thing that made the story start dragging. We don’t get any real perspective into Snow White’s side of things. After she loses her father, we only get a few glimpses of her through the Queen’s eyes, who is, very annoyingly always referred to as “the Queen” almost throughout the entirety of the novel. I think the only time her actual name is mentioned is during the marriage ceremony to the king. I think this serves to alienate the reader from her character far earlier than need be and makes her seem like more of a symbol of royalty than an actual person, but I guess since this book is entitled Fairest of All,  I should have expected it to be more about the Queen, her obsession with her reflection, and her jealousy of Snow White than anything else.

Which does not excuse the reality that there is way too much “telling” in the novel. After a while, I began to realize that I had no real visualization of what was happening in the book because I was being fed the events of the story, without enough description to have a running image in my mind of what was happening. Of course, that was annoying and as the book began to drag on and on, it became more and more obvious that this writing error was not going to be fixed. As I began to be attacked with cliches like cackling witches and evil laughter, the characters began to collapse into shallow stereotypes, with brief moments of redemption when the Queen had a few moments of guilt or remember the happy time she’d shared with her husband and daughter before everything went to shit.

But, all in all, the Queen becomes very unbelievable as a character. It was very much like watching a terrible actor perform a role in which he has a set of lines to recite, but you can tell that he’s not really into what he’s saying and doesn’t look personally involved. She becomes stiff, repetitive, and so irritating that I was ready for the book to just end so I could see what creative twists might have been taken with the story. I wasn’t too disappointed with the twist, only that it happened in about two seconds worth the reading.

Here’s a random phrase I enjoyed: “The sisters began speaking, picking up one another’s sentences.” I was still looking for redeeming qualities in the writing up until the book very suddenly, came to an end. That ending was short and rushed. Though we are taken through this story rather quickly, except when we are stuck in the dark times of the Queen’s circling grief, vanity, and jealousy, when the evil queen is finally conquered, we are slapped with a quickie wedding, some “they lived happily ever after” bullshit, and some “happiness and love conquers all” fuckery. I shouldn’t have been surprised since the good parts of this book with its strong and interesting start, flew south for the rest of the novel and never returned. Nice try, Disney, but, you might want to stick to cute and passionate animated movies after all.


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