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Mirror Mirror: A Novel Paperback – September 28, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060988657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060988654
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Maguire has a lock on clever, elaborate retellings of fairy tales, turning them inside out and couching them in tongue-in-cheek baroque prose. After his revisionist takes on Oz's Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked) and Cinderella's ugly stepsisters (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), he now tackles Snow White. The notorious Borgia habit of poisoning rivals inspired him to transplant the classic tale to 16th-century Tuscany, where Vicente de Nevada is an expatriate Spanish widower who lives with his daughter, the fair Bianca. Beholden to sinister Cesare Borgia and Cesare's sister (and perhaps lover) Lucrezia, Vicente is sent on what appears to be a fool's errand, to discover and steal from a Middle East monastery a branch of the Tree of Knowledge complete with three apples. When Bianca is 11, Cesare's attraction to her causes the envious Lucrezia to order a young hunter to murder her and deliver her heart in a casket. Bianca, of course, is spared and taken in by seven dwarfs. But this is not Disney; the dwarfs are boulders, stirred to life by Bianca's arrival ("a clothed, bearded obstinacy became slowly apparent"). Several years pass in surreal, dreamlike fashion, with Bianca tending to the dwarfs, who cavort stiffly and philosophize collectively. When Vicente returns successful, Lucrezia poisons an apple for her rival. Innocent Bianca's fate is gentle, but that of the corrupt Lucrezia, in brilliant Venice, is appropriately grotesque. Fairy tales in their original form are often brutal and disturbing; with his rich, idiosyncratic storytelling, Maguire restores the edge to an oft-told tale and imbues it with a strange, unsettling beauty.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School--A dark and vivid retelling of Snow White transposed to the Italy of the Borgias. Lucrezia is the evil stepmother and five-year-old Bianca de Nevada grows into the role of Snow White. Vicente, a minor landlord beholden to Lucrezia and her brother/lover Cesare, unwillingly leaves his motherless daughter to go on a seemingly futile errand for Cesare. Journeying to Greece to seek out a branch of the holy Tree of Knowledge, Vicente languishes for years in the dungeon of the very monks who possess the relic. While her father is gone, Bianca develops into a lovely young woman, attracting Cesare's attention. Seeing this, Lucrezia orders her killed and sends a young hunter into the woods with the familiar instructions. Adding much historical flavor and returning to the edgy eroticism of the fairy tale, Maguire invests the journeys of the Borgias, Bianca, and Vicente with a compelling urgency. Readers will be intrigued by the new story and yet curious as to how the familiar elements are brought in. Sometimes seven, sometimes eight, the dwarves, slowly awakening to their possibilities, are droll and great fun to listen to. The language has an old-fashioned quality and the point of view shifts frequently, but teens who continue to the end will learn much of medieval Italy and a little of human nature, and have a new respect for the old tale. This is a great addition to the Maguire shelf.--Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Gregory Maguire received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children's Literature New England. He still serves as co-director of CLNE, although that organization has announced its intention to close after its 2006 institute.
The bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. Wicked, now a beloved classic, is the basis for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same name. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad.
He has three adopted children and is married to painter Andy Newman. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

There isn't enough history to make it a historical novel.
Maguire seems unable to decide who is the main character of the novel and a majority of the story is spent with massive switches in both tone of narration and flow.
Also, at times there were a bit too many unnecesarily descriptions- Maquire went on and on about certain things without getting to the root of the story.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By April Blake VINE VOICE on June 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
What I admire about the Gregory Maguire books I've read so far is his subtle way of entwining the fantastic with the mundane in such a way that it is completely believable. His books are strange dreams in which stags can be gondoliers and rocks can speak and walk.

I read two of Maguire's books before attempting Mirror, Mirror, and it took two aborted attempts at this book in question before I got past the first few chapters of laborious, slow description of Montefiore and Vicente de Nevada's behaviour. Twice, in disgust, I closed Mirror, Mirror and vowed never to return to its grindingly slow narrative. Snow White was one of my least favorite fairy tales, anyway.

Over the weekend, I decided I'd give this book another shot. It's not a thick, cumbersome book, and the illustrations are pretty, and I remembered that although I was hooked on Wicked from the first word, it took some real effort on my part to become engaged in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. So I ground my way through the description of Montefiore and Bianca and Vicente and the two most prominent players in the supporting cast of crazies, Primavera Vecchia and Fra Ludovico. This time I found the descriptions less cumbersome and full of things to look at, especially with Primavera Vecchia, whose first name means "spring" and her last name means "old" and she herself is older than dirt. She is larger than life and at the same time completely human, approachable.

Before I knew it, Maguire and his band of characters had me hooked. The Borgias showed up, bringing with them danger so real it could be tasted. I worried for the population of Montefiore. I forgot I was reading a Snow White tale, and was surprised by the hunter in the woods, the strange stone beasts, the sacred poisoned apple.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Gregory is back and it is wonderful!!! It had to be after that awful dribble LOST came out 2 years ago. I bought this book yesterday (I still had faith in GM) and I could put it down until I finished it. It held me in thrall and I just couldn't read it fast enough.The only complaint..it wasn't long enough!!! I don't want to give any of it away but this Snow White is no Disney cartoon. And man oh man these dwarfs are very strange and there's one extra one that we never knew about(?!). Get this book and have a wonderful time reading it. Gregory is back and its so good to have him back writing something great once again!!!!
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Chesty LaRue on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Years ago I read and loved Maguire's excellent book "Wicked." Since then I have read each of his subsequent novels and have been horribly disappointed by every one of them. "Lost" was awful, but I didn't even manage to finish the supremely sucky "Mirror Mirror." I always finish books. I can't remember the last time I didn't finish one. I was so irritated and bored that after 150 pages or so I chucked the book across the room. However, "Wicked" was so good that I will probably continue to attempt to read his books. I'm a fool.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S. Urie on January 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
I read both Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. I had to force myself to get through this one and it wasn't worth it. The story switched perspective every chapter and I really didn't care about what happened to Bianca (Snow White). It simply isn't as interesting or as well-written as his other work. I wouldn't bother buying this book.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence E. Wilson on October 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
A marvelous book, a 300-page temptation, an invocation to the reader to plunge headlong and feetfirst into a tarantella of political intrigue, old magics, subtle loves, and unsubtle appetites...
Maguire does not simply take the age-old tale of Snow White and set in in early Renaissance Italy, as others have done in their retellings of the classics. Intriguingly, he finds the place where it fits best, where it lodges, and roots, and grows...and so the story of the beautiful young Bianca becomes tangled with the history of Lucrezia Borgia, her poisons and her passions, and the resulting tapestry is rich, subtle, frightening, and revelational...and no one has EVER explained the dwarves as Maguire has done here, as strange, earthy entities caught somewhere between timeless torpor and true humanity. Lovely, and strange, and highly-recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By L. Carroll on October 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've been looking forward to the newest Gregory Maguire novel for quite some time. I loved Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister but this one left me wanting something more from this story. I never felt any connection with any of the charaters and I didn't find amusement at a clever turn to a familiar story. This had all the elements to tell the old tale of Snow White from a different view point but there was never a firm grasp of one person as the main story teller; the story was too fragmented. I thought it was a great idea to put Lucrezia Borgia in the wicked stepmother role but there wasn't enough done with it. The view point of the dwarves also had great potential that was never fully developed too. All in all I was disappointed in this novel but it was still an interesting take on the story. If you haven't read any of Maguire's work I would suggest reading Wicked instead.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on April 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Gregory Maguire has made a name for himself with his revisionist versions of classic tales. My previous exposures to him were with Wicked (his prequel to the Wizard of Oz, with a far less malevolent "Wicked" Witch), and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (with his version of Cinderella). Mirror, Mirror - as indicated by the title - is a retelling of Snow White.

Bianca de Nevada (whose name roughly translates to Snow White) is seven years old as the book opens, living with her father in an isolated Italian estate. It is 1502 and the Borgias are in power. Cesare Borgia forces Bianca's father to go on a quest for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, a search that will take years. Cesare's sister, Lucrezia - who has more than a sisterly love for her brother - eventually grows jealous of Cesare's lust for Bianca and has her sent off to the forest to be killed, although this plan does not work as intended.

All the basic elements of the Snow White story - most well-known from the Disney movie - are here. There is (as just mentioned) the abandonment in the forest, the poison apple and the seven dwarves (actually eight, although one is separate from the rest). And, of course, there is the magic mirror. On the other hand, this story is also quite different from the familiar fairy tale, most particularly with the historical backdrop of sixteenth century Italy. The dwarves are quite different from Doc, Dopey, et al, instead being semi-divine or alien creatures.

My initial mistake with Gregory Maguire was assuming that his alternate takes on fairy tales would be funnier, as they are at least superficially parodies. I was therefore disappointed at first with Wicked, which, while not completely devoid of humor, certainly had few laugh-out-loud moments. Now I know what to expect with Maguire and - approaching Mirror, Mirror with the right mindset - I found it to be a good book, a fast, intelligent read.
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