I approached this book with some trepidation, as fairy tale retellings can vary in quality perhaps more than any other genre. However, I ended up discovering one of my favourite reads of the year, and making Theodora Goss an insta-buy author.
Book: Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC sent by NetGalley for fair review. All opinions my own.
This is a collection of short stories and poems which play with conventional fairy tales. Some have been previously printed elsewhere, and some are original to this collection; some are based on the well-known tales, and some are more obscure. All of these reworkings, whatever their influences, have the dark, magical feel of classic tales, and that spark of magic that makes a story feel like it has a life and personality of its own. The language in every story is just enthralling. I devoured the whole book without paying any attention to the time, which I think is the true touch of Faerie.
My favourite thing about this whole collection is how Theodora Goss is constantly recentering women’s experiences in each story. Classic fairy tales say so much about being a woman, but they are still fairly formulaic in the roles that they provide: maiden, mother, or witch. These stories explore the grey areas, showing maidens who have grown old, and witches who remember their times as mothers, and women who have hundreds of facets alongside their Grimm-given roles. I loved the multiplicity of each woman in each of these stories – there’s so much power in all these women.
To go into detail about any of the stories would spoil them, because I feel like they should be savoured as their own selves, rather than explained. Some of my favourites were “Blanchefleur”, “A Story in Twelve Petals”, and “The Other Thea”, but there wasn’t a single duff note in the whole collection. I generally trust Jane Yolen’s opinion on fairy tale works, but even her glowing words in the preface couldn’t prepare me for how wonderful I found this collection.
An obvious 5 out of 5 stars.