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Jennifer Donnelly
Hot Key Books
ISBN: 9781471408144

Traditional fairytale language and plot devices, interwoven with decidedly modern, feminist ideas, makes for an exciting retelling of the Brothers Grimm's classic, Snow White.

Princess Sophie is everything we expect from a fairytale princess - kind, loving and, of course, beautiful. On her 17th birthday, she must assume her late father's throne - an idea so daunting she can think only of finding a handsome prince to marry who will do the hard work of ruling for her.

Sophie's stepmother, Queen Adelaide, has ruled as regent for years, and has fully embraced the idea that to be a woman in a man's world, she must out-man men at their own game. She is flint-hearted, tougher than dragon hide and entirely lacking in empathy. Readers who follow the news will instantly recognise her type.

To Adelaide, Sophie's gentle, compassionate nature demonstrates her weakness and total unsuitability to become Queen. Marrying the pathetic girl off is only the first step in Adelaide's despicable plan to deal with Sophie. But she reckons without Sophie being rescued from certain death in the Darkwood by seven brothers, and the repercussions that rescue has for the princess.

Parts of the plot will be familiar from the original, while parts will be familiar from other myths and legends; an incident with a wolf has more than a hint of Androcles and the Lion about it. There is a suggestion of the Wizard of Oz.

Throughout the book, we know we are reading a fairytale, so we are fully expecting a happy ending. As with any fairytale, Sophie must learn some important life lessons along the way - in her case, about love, fear and strength. Will her happy ending be a life of quiet contentment in the Darkwood, or does her destiny lie in the royal palace after all?

Suitable for mature KS3 readers; some of the violence can be quite gruesome, and there is a suicide scene.

320 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Kimberley Lawson, school librarian


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