Subterranean, 2013. 978-1596065529.
Synopsis: A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parents–a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother’s death in childbirth, so begins a heroine s tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. – from Amazon.com
Why I picked it up: I’m looking forward to reading Valente’s latest book, The Girl Who Soared over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two which comes out in October, and wanted to sample some of her other writing.
Why I finished it: The book started out more or less like I thought it would and then turned and went a drastically different direction halfway through. Valente has skillfully adapted the classic fairy tale to fit in the American Western setting, complete with a narrator whose voice reminds me a lot of Mattie Ross from the Cohen Brothers’ remake of True Grit. The setting provides some thought-provoking moments for the reader, particularly in the chapters dealing with Snow White’s interactions with her Stepmother and the discovery of the magical looking glass. But as Snow White gradually moves off on her own, Valente begins to deviate from the traditional and the story starts to take on a life all its own. Case in point: the narrator briefly discusses the notion of Eastern magic versus Native American magic and the two being different from each other, but some of the element of wonder often associated with magic (in the fantasy sense) gets lost in the background of the gun-slinging setting. For much of the middle of the story, it seems like it takes way too long to get to the point and by the time the reader reaches the end, they are rewarded with a conclusion that felt a little more depressing than it did satisfying. Definitely for older teens because of some of the language and vocabulary, Valente produces an intriguing read that uniquely mixes the European and American storytelling traditions.
Other related materials: Myths of Origin: Four Short Novels by Catherynne M. Valente; The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente; The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente and Ana Juan; The Girl who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Lead the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente and Ana Juan; The Girl Who Soared over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente and Ana Juan; The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb; The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson; Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde