swatqomSnow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem by Melissa Lemon
Release Date: December 11, 2012
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Source: NetGalley
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Stuck in her family’s apple orchards, Kat’s got plenty of work to do and only pesky Jeremy to help. But when Jeremy convinces her to run away, Kat will discover that nothing—and no one—in her life is quite what it seems. Wonderfully reimagined, this is the magical tale of Snow White as you’ve never read it before!

Oh, that summary, it does nothing for this awesome re-telling of Snow White. I mean, yes, it is a re-telling, but the introduction of new characters was fun, plus (!) the story is narrated by the Magic Mirror! How cool is that? I personally would classify this as middle-grade, not YA, because the storytelling is very simple in style, and the Mirror does a lot of telling instead of showing. However, when you kind of know how the story is going to end, does showing really matter as much? Not to me. Besides, I have to think that, because this isn’t third person omniscient, it’s first person limited, so we’re really only being shown what the Mirror sees/infers, and he is not an unbiased narrator. After the disappointment that was Magisterium, SWatQoM was the perfect antidote for me. You begin with Snow’s beginnings. She was born to the evil Queen Radiance, who is absolute ruler of the kingdom of Mayhem, and her husband, Frederick. The King disappears with Katiyana, entrusting her into the care of a relative, before being killed by bandits. Barney is a good caretaker until he becomes blind. Then he hires a helper, Jeremy, and Barney becomes a drunken abuser. That was sad. What follows is Kat’s story after she leaves her uncle’s secluded home. There is a tiny bit of fat-shaming and some comment about Jeremy’s father being “the kind of man who does what his wife says” that I kind of looked at sideways, but most of the vitriol seems directed toward Jeremy’s mother, who is not the nicest person in the world. There’s also a lot of “he looks like a man but he can cook well!” when we meet the dwarves which sort of just made me roll my eyes. Only women can cook in Mischief and Mayhem?

I have to tell you, as much as I liked this one, in the beginning the Mirror creeped me out a little. He seems obsessed with Kat, always talking about wanting to talk to her and be in her life. It seemed strange to me, but I got over it. One thing I hated, though? This line, from the chapter Queen Radiance, “the bodice framed her chest tightly, forcing me to pay attention to the shape of her body.” Okay, no. Just no. This is pretty classic victim-blaming/slut-shaming stuff. “She wore a short skirt, I couldn’t help it!” I know the queen is evil, but maybe she didn’t wear that bodice so you would be forced to notice her body, you jerk. Why assume she did it for you? Why shame her for wearing what she wants? I hate that. Hate it. That made the whole thing lose a star. If a woman is wearing a tight dress, control yourself and be an adult and move on. No one is forcing anyone to look at anything. And maybe Radiance did use magic to enthrall Jasper, but that kind of message sucks. I don’t think it belongs in YA or MG.

All right. Moving on. I like this one, remember? I do! It’s totally possible to like problematic things, and, in my opinion, all of us do. Now, we meet Trevor, who is kind of naive considering his station, or maybe because of his station, sent by Radiance to kill the rediscovered Kat. The majority of the dwarves don’t like him, but Trevor is the one who thinks up the name “Snow Whyte” for Kat (despite the fact that Katiyana apparently means “snow”). He’s a bit of an annoyance, and then some sad things happen, and Kat decides to leave the seven dwarves’ home and check in on her old uncle. That’s another thing I liked about this one. It’s a lot like a traditional fairy tale, with deaths and terror, instead of a sanitized Disney version. Kat hasn’t had the happiest go of it since her uncle lost his sight, and I had a feeling it would only get worse.

There is also humor in this novel, though, once again, I think it’s geared a little more towards tweens than teens, but I love MG, so it didn’t matter to me. Kat is sort of a Mary Sue: she’s good at everything she does, she’s beautiful, she’s kind, people love her, etc, but she also has a bit of a journey in this one. A self-discovery, if you will. There is a little twist, which I figured out about two-thirds of the way through, but I don’t think it ruins anything to see it coming. In all, this one was a humorous, but also unafraid, re-telling of the Snow White tale, and I enjoyed myself immensely while reading it. The way Lemon describes the different courts of Mayhem and Mischief is fun, and I found myself wanting to know more about that world, in the way Frank Beddor expands Wonderland in his Looking Glass Warsseries. I am definitely going to go back and read Lemon’s Cinder and Ella, and I hope she has more fairy tales for us in the future!