Fairest of All (Serena Valentino, 2009)

The tale of the young princess and her evil stepmother, the Wicked Queen, is widely known. Despite a few variations from telling to telling, the story remains the same–the Queen was jealous of the girl’s beauty, and this jealousy culminated in the Queen’s attempt on the sweet, naive girl’s life.

Another tale far less often spoken of is the one that explains what caused the Queen to become so contemptuously vile. Still, some have attempted to guess at the reason. Perhaps the Queen’s true nature was that of a wicked hag and her beautiful, regal appearance a disguise used to fool the King. Others claim that the Queen might have hated the girl for her resemblance to the King’s first wife. Mostly, the Queen is painted as a morally abhorrent woman who never loved another being during the course of her miserable life.

In fact, the theories about exactly what cause the Queen’s obsessive vanity and jealous rage are too numerous to catalog. This book recounts a version of the story that has remained untold until now. It is a tragic tale of love and loss, and it contains a bit of magic. It is a tale of the Wicked Queen…

(Text from goodreads)

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This is the third of Disney’s retelling in this little series of really pretty books. They are really pretty with different covers underneath the dust jacket, and I admit it was primarily the covers that attracted me. When reading further what this series is really about they are of course retellings. This one is a retelling of the evil Queen’s story from Snow White.

It starts out rather surprisingly with a very sweet woman marrying a very pleasant King who has a daughter. Had I not know what fairy tale this was a retelling of, it would have fooled me very much. Because the Queen we meet in the beginning of the story is far from evil, quite the contrary in fact. She is a most sweet woman and the strong opposite of the typical evil stepmother.

“The Queen preferred the smaller rooms of the castle. They made her feel more at home. She wasn’t a Queen here. She was a wife and mother. She was herself.”

I think this is by far the best of the three I have read of this little series, and this is because this story really brings a different background to the character we know and creates and entirely different story. It presents the character of the evil queen very unrecognizable from the evil one we know, and I like the fact that we get in depth with what it was that really drove her to become who we know her to be. I was also pleasantly surprised with how they chose to make this queen evil.

“She felt alone, forsaken by her husband, and now Snow was away from her as well. No, that was a dream. Or was it? Everything in her life seemed to be tangled up now – dreams and reality, fantasy and nightmares.”

It was a very quick read and as such you could say that the story does not bring much to the one we know. It might be right but then again I found it quite good. I liked the idea that it was grief and sadness that drove the Queen to become such a bad person, more than the fact that it was pure vanity. In this case her vanity stems from a bad family upbringing and it was an interesting twist that you would not expect from fairy tales in this way.

So even though it was short and stuck much to the original I liked the background it brought because it made me think differently of the evil Queen. And in general that is what I think a good retelling should be able to do, to make us rethink the original characters.

3 star

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