YA Review: Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem by Melissa Lemon

288 pages | Cedar Fort, Inc. | December 2012

What I usually look for in a fairy-tale retelling are signs of actual, you know, retelling. I don’t want some dressed-up version of a Disney movie. In Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem (with it’s long-ass Harry Potter-esqe title), I really wanted Snow White to be someone who was not simply kind because that’s the way the story goes, not simply beautiful just because that’s the way the story goes. I wanted to see history, I wanted to see a human being coping to survive extreme circumstances, whose personality (whether defiant or resolute or genuine or meek) is dictated by the impact of her environment. I’m sorry, but this Snow Whyte (or Katiyana Whyte) seemed to be just going through the notions of what was expected of her to complete the story. No real motivation, no real background to why she acts the way she does. (If you want a good fairy tale retelling, readers should try Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine)

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Stuck in her family’s apple orchards, Kat’s got plenty of work to do and only pesky Jeremy to help. But when Jeremy convinces her to run away, Kat will discover that nothing—and no one—in her life is quite what it seems. Wonderfully reimagined, this is the magical tale of Snow White as you’ve never read it before!

I did like that the story is told from the point of view of the magical mirror watching over Katiyana and her love interest Jeremy. It gave the book an interesting sort of depth that isn’t often seen in other Snow White retellings, allowing Melissa to give emotion to events that would otherwise be told in omniscient POV. Inspired idea, but it wasn’t as successful in contributing to the story as I would have otherwise liked. The Mirror tells us, doesn’t show us, what he sees. If Katiyana is sad, we don’t get to see any of her emotions in writing; rather, we are told something along the lines of “Katiyana looks sad, and I can’t help but pity her.” It’s a bit like listening to a guy try to describe to you a girl’s expressions and emotions when said girl is standing right in front of you.

On the other hand, though, I did enjoy the Mirror’s storyline. We don’t usually hear about the history of the mirror. I think the ending really made up for my boredom in the beginning. The problem with this book is that while it seems like Melissa tried in this book, it doesn’t seem like she tried very hard.

For example, the writing was, at best, mediocre. It was wooden and unimaginative You could read every third sentence and not feel like you missed out on a thing. The only reason I know this is because, well, that’s what I did for the first few chapters. The queen did this, the king did that, I did this (and btw, who the f— is this “I” person? Not Snow White, not the queen, not the king… It took me forever to figure out that it was the Mirror, but I really just couldn’t be bothered to go back and see if Melissa had mentioned who the narrator was in the beginning. But, in my defense, I don’t think she did). Introductions of the dwarves took forever, and honestly, I couldn’t match their names to their personalities (if they had any…) when they were mentioned later on. To me, they were the “dwarves.” Melissa could have called them Dwarf 1, Dwarf 2, Dwarf 3, and so on and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

And, btw, the revelations near the end of the chapters were not entirely revelations at all; I think at some point Melissa forgets that her readers have heard the story of Snow White before. We read this book because we want to see the history. There are some parts that I think are supposed to be impactful and make me go, “Ooooohh, I see the connection now ,” but I was actually more annoyed than anything else. I know there’s seven dwarves, I know the queen is evil, that is how the story goes. The only one who doesn’t know it is the MC. That is not a revelation, that is my irritation when I realize I’ve known about all the revelations this book will dish out since I was a kid.

PS: Putting a “Y” in a name DOES NOT make it hipster. Am I the only one who find the “White” spelled “Whyte” to be annoying?

Two paws up for:

+A cute ending with all loose ends tied up nice and tight
+An interesting narrator (the Mirror POV)
+Magic! (always gonna be a plus for me)
+A quick read, if a little boring

Three paws down for:

-A magic system, but a stereotypical one
-A heroine that seems sort of like a placeholder
-Failed to hold my attention! I skipped the entire middle section of the book and I don’t regret it.

Recommended for:

+Lovers of fantasy retellings


Print Edition

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