Rating: 4 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Death hasn't visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders' bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.
Rowan's village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan's door once again. Only this time, its appetite is insatiable."
Review: I enjoy fairy tale retellings, so when I saw this bewitching cover and learned that it was a snow white retelling I snatched it up in about three seconds.
It took a lot longer than three seconds to get through the first few chapters, though. It's clear that something dark and sinister is happening in/near Nag's End where this story takes place, but the villagers aren't doing very much about it. That includes our heroine, Rowan. She's a bright, young girl, perhaps the most intelligent person in the village, but even she doesn't act to try and eradicate the threat to her village, or at least protect those she cares about. I wished the villagers had been a little more proactive, and it felt like they should have been considering how delightfully/maddeningly superstitious they all were.
The plot became more interesting when Fiona and her stepparents move in. We learn here that Rowan is not the Snow White character; that role is given to the strange, new, beautiful girl, Fiona. Fiona's story arc throughout the entire book was truly captivating. Her character is beautifully written. She really stood out in this story, like blood on snow. I loved reading about her. I've read a lot of versions of Snow White, but never this one. Her story was original and compelling, all while staying true to the source material.
There are a lot of books that are described as being "atmospheric." Well, if that word ever described any book, it's this one. The suspense was so thick, it was like a heavy shadow over every character, making me wonder if the terror haunting their village was within or without. I truly suspected Jude, Mama Lune, Fiona, Fiona's stepfather, the Duke, Merrilee, Rowan's father, and even Tom at different points in the novel. That kind of suspense made the last half of the novel wildly entertaining.
I do wish some things had been set up a little better, though. There was a brief explanation in the beginning of the various kinds of witches and what their powers are, but by the time that information became relevant I had forgotten some key points. I also wish the red herring characters had better explanations for their actions, rather than being present simply to provide suspense to the novel.
I still enjoyed reading this book, even if I wish there was more action involved. It was deliciously creepy, and I truly did not guess how it would end. There was not quite enough action, nor was there quite enough worldbuilding to make it perfect, but it was a strong read and a compelling retelling of the classic fairy tale.
Bottom Line: This creepy retelling of Snow White will appeal to suspenseful fairy tale lovers, though probably won't convert those not already in love with the genre.