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on August 8, 2006
I blow hot and cold on Tanith Lee. Sometimes she dazzles me; sometimes she makes a mild impression; and sometimes she leaves me untouched. So I picked up "White as Snow" with some trepidation, both interested to see what she'd do and fearing that I just wouldn't really care about it.

Well, I care.

Lee has not simply reworked the story of Snow White. She has dismantled it, stripped it of all our modern perceptions of it, and produced what I can only call a literary miracle - she has made it at once achingly familiar and utterly new.

There are dozens of influences on the book, but the most obvious - and brilliant - is the meshing of Snow White with the myth of Persephone. Throughout the book, Lee finds surprising ways to make the two stories one. The mother/daughter relationship, in particular, is illuminated so unflinchingly that you can barely look at it. (Greek mythology in general is also seamlessly integrated into the book, so that it's now hard for me to separate one from the other.)

It has been said that the characters are unappealing. I'm not the best judge of that, because Lee effortlessly sent me into each character's mind in a matter of moments, but I do think that might count for something. The characters are not Good and Evil, not one thing or another. They are the underside of humanity. Theirs are the not-so-fine impulses that we all do our best to pretend don't exist. They lust, they hate, they ruin - and it's those very same dark impulses that drew me so completely into their characters and their world. Again, this is not a fairy tale. This is what fairy tales wish they could be.

This is also THE darkest fantasy - maybe the darkest book, period - that I have ever read. Do NOT pick this up with Disney in mind. My sister once said that "White as Snow" isn't fantasy, it's psychology, and that's a very apt description. These characters are not without motivation - they just have no pretensions to having noble motivations. Arpazia, the queen, mentally fragile and brutally abused, gains oblivion only to realize too late that perhaps she wanted something more. Coira, the princess, is pensive and selfish, and pays the price for her careless actions. Hephaestion, one of the dwarves, withdraws from any emotion in seeking to protect himself. You cannot cookie-cut these characters. It's just not possible. You can only accept them for the stunningly real people they are. And you can marvel at Tanith Lee, who can create such power and make it look so easy.
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on December 21, 2007
Certainly the writing is extraordinary, the way Lee handles language is rare and beautiful, and the story was certainly compelling if disturbing. I came out of the book feeling depressed about humanity. Everyone in the book is on survival mode and this does not bring out the best in them. You see the darkest side of humankind, which, as we all know, can be horrendous, something that I don't need to see more of in this day and age. This is not a world I would ever want to be part of but her psycholgical insight into the people is dead on and probably what one would find with people in their situations. It took me a few days to recuperate from the sadness I felt after reading the book (granted, I have depression issues anyway, so probably not a good choice for me)
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on January 2, 2003
I've loved several books in the Fairy Tale series, especially Tam Lin. I started reading this book ready to really enjoy it, but my assessment kept dropping as I went, and finally I put it down unfinished less than 2/3 through. The characters were completely unengaging, every relationship (and all the sex, including the stuff that was supposed to be fun) was depressing and sleazy, and the slightly adjusted mythological names were annoying (if you're going to use them, use them). I didn't care about any of the characters, and everything they did seemed like just another bit in a string of events, rather than a personally shaped life. Parts of the book seemed promising, but overall it struck me as a lengthy and pointless ordeal. I'm sorry to have liked it so little, and hope other work of Lee's is better.
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on December 4, 2007
To say the least, I am very skeptical in trusting the ratings on Amazon. SImply, everyone's opinion varies greatly- your all-time favorite book will get a 2, or a book you hate will get a 5. Now, I jot down the titles I'm interested in, go to the nearest Borders and review a few pages. It's better than buying a book and being disappointed. I leave 5 stars, because this fantasy is one of the most lush, eloquently and uniquely written book I have seen in a long time. It is also one of the most dark, intense and slightly macabre books I've read...if not perhaps, THE most fantastically macabre book ever. This is not for the fainthearted. (Spoiler) There is one rape scene- I hate reading and watching anything to do with it. Ever watch the movie, General's Daughter? I almost stopped watching it, but without that extremely prolonged scene (it seemed to me) it would not have been the movie it was. The same goes for this book. To quote Tim Curry in Legend, "What is light without darkness?" If you are familiar with the REAL Brothers Grimm fairy tales (meant for adults) and appreciate their value, then you may be interested in this book. Stunning and marvelous.
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on May 4, 2004
Tanith Lee is one of my very favorite writers, and whenever she and the world of Fairy Tales meet, the result is always pretty explosive. But have caution: this book is certainly not for everyone.
This book is extremely dark and graphic, and has some of those uniquely "tanith-y" characters that are complex and not all that likeable. But they contrast nicely with the characters that are downright monstrous.
I like that she explores the issue of what, exactly would make someone like Snow White's mother act the way she does, and involves issues of magic in a way that does not solve problems, but causes them. The end is not so much "bittersweet", as "wrenching". I wouldn't reccomend it to someone who hasn't read any other Lee books.
I read the Orson Scott Card book, "Hart's Hope", and was struck be the similarities, not in the plot, but in themes, imagery, and questions posed. If you liked that book, this one is for you. Keep in mind, though, that this book is much more horror than it is fantasy, despite the Fairy Tale connections.
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on May 14, 2012
Where do I begin? I don't know, but I will anyway.

This book is beautiful. It is literary magic. The author combined two stories, a myth and a fairy tale to make a strong point about life? none-the-less it was potent. of course you will want to read the reviews that gave this book a 1, but believe me when I say you should give this book a chance. It's dark, twisted, and potently deep. don't believe those who tell you that the characters are hollow, the author had a fine point in making the characters the way they are. You'll meet an array of characters in this story and you can't help but strive to understand why they see and react to things the way they do. If you don't understand the characters then in reality you aren't understanding of others.

Again, I think the story tried to emphasize reality and explain it through a fairy tale, by offering different perspectives.For example, snow white's mother is known as the evil witch, everyone is afarid of her, and you'll hate her yourself, but your job as the reader is to distance yourself while reading and take another approach. Ask your self if you were a 14 year old, naive, gullible girl who had a narrow view of the world, because you had no mother to influence you or lead you, how would you perceive the world after someone violated you? that's my point. I almost forgot why the queen was the way she was, but then I remembered, she had a dark upbringing to begin with, she remained a child of the past, even as she grew. Se felt alone and that fed her grief, hate and tendency of great evil.... she was traumatized

Read the book. It's deep.
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on November 25, 2013
Someone suggested I read it, unfortunately I've gotten to chapter two and couldn't seem to finish it. My major issue is the fact that it jumps around way too much. Other minor problem the mother is too self pitying for my taste.
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on January 20, 2005
'White as Snow', despite several flaws, is a standout in the decade-old `Fairy Tale Series'. Tanith Lee successfully translates the elements of the pre-Brothers Grimm versions of the Snow White fable into a wholly unique retelling.

There is an obvious gothic edge to the story - but takes it in a direction that seems neither camp nor overly maudlin.

Lee also comments on the tenuousness of a parent/child dynamic when a child realizes that youth and beauty can often (and unfairly) eclipse maturity and knowledge. Unfortunately, this exploration occurs infrequently throughout the novel.

Lee's writing is the strongest in the middle section of the novel, during Candacis transition from girl to woman and Arpazia's fall into obscurity. Arpazia's resentment, confusion and despair over being viewed as 'old' are strong on both a literal and figurative level. Candacis transformation into a naively cold young woman seems forced at times, but is nonetheless compelling.

Lee's is more focused on crafting a fairy tale for 'adults'. And the themes of neglected childhood, witchcraft, and sexual possession allow Lee to accomplish that. Unfortunately, Lee sometimes loses sight of the characters and is so intent on making people and situations 'moody and atmospheric' that the main characters can come across as unlikable.

The book did not reach its full potential, but it definitely came close in many sections. If you are looking for an atypical telling of the Snow White story, this book is for you.
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on October 27, 2010
This is a dark spin off of Snow White. It's not a re-telling, because it is nothing like the traditional version of Snow White. There is much more interwoven workings and macabre. This is not a happy book, so if gothic and strange isn't your style then you may not want to venture here. I have read some reviews that noted the characters have "no depth" or aren't "colorful" enough. The characters are diffcult to understand unless you have been in some truly dark places yourself, and only through analyzing their psyche will you come to understand and respect them as they are. This is one of my favorite books. I love fairytales, and this is a wonderfully gothic fairytale. You will know why the wicked witches are always so evil and angry. You will know why the princess is always so helpless. This book will tie everything together for you. The ending is gratifying and sound, but you will still long for more.
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on April 25, 2004
OK. I must not be a fan of dark fantasy. Maybe that's my problem with this book. However, I am a fan of Terri Windling's Fairy Tale Series. I bought this book in hardcover because it was a part of the series--although the fact that it was written by Tanith Lee gave me some serious qualms.
I can admire that Lee is a talented writer than can truly mine the depths of darkness to write a fantastic story. However, even while I recognized Lee's talent when reading this book, I was repelled by it. One of the professional reviews stated that she explored the sex and violence of the Grimm version of "Snow White." That's true. However, this book simply went too far for me. If memory serves me correctly there were at least 10 separate acts of rape. Very likely I'm underestimating that number.
If you like dark fantasy and/or Tanith Lee, you'll think this book is fantastic. If you're at all squeamish about reading about rape, I recommend walking away from this novel.
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