Snow White, Blood Red

Snow White, Blood Red

Having recently finished another collection of short stories by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, I must confess that it is not my favorite. That’s okay; they’ve all been enjoyable so far, and this one is no exception. It seems to me, though, that while Snow White, Blood Red promised to be a lush, provocative set of tales, it ended up being more flesh than fairy, with many tales simply lacking magic at all. Though all were well written, not many had that fantastic element of otherworldliness that I had come to expect from these editors. Even the cover of this book—though you should never judge a book by its cover!—sort of annoyed me, as it didn’t seem to pertain to the rest of it very well.

Some of the tales you will encounter in the book do remind us of familiar fairytales we know—and those are the ones that I always love most, the ones that spin stories I know into a whole new direction. An updated version of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” for example, details Jack as an adulterer with a giantess—definitely not something we’d pictured before. In a telling of “Puss in Boots,” Puss is something altogether different from a cat—a gargoyle? A vampire? We never know for sure, making this dark tale one of the best in the book. A retelling of “Red Riding Hood” is quite chilling, though a supernatural element may or may not be at hand; subtlety is often a theme in these stories. Another favorite of mine is early in the book, in which a witch’s garden holds a magical secret that dooms both her and her daughter.

Many of the tales hardly seem fanciful at all, however. In a retelling of “The Snow Queen,” for example, though the prose itself seems magical, the story itself reads more like The Great Gatsby. It’s possibly one of the most well written in the bunch, but it just didn’t have the magic element that I had hoped for after reading so many compilations from these editors. The “Rapunzel” story doesn’t seem very different from the version I am familiar with at all, and its magic was at a minimum—though I did enjoy the ending. And while the futuristic telling of “Snow White” was disturbing—even chilling—I felt like its connection to the tale was loose at best, and that there was little magic to be had in the story at all.

If you are a fan of these compilations, I would say read it; it’s still worth it because of the good stories (all are good, really; it’s just that not all feel like fairytales) that are within the book. I just would not recommend this as a first book in the vast collections available, as it doesn’t do the others justice.