Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Published: November 10th 2015 by Saga Press (First published February 28th 2013)
Forget the dark, enchanted forest. Picture instead a masterfully evoked Old West where you are more likely to find coyotes as the seven dwarves. Insert into this scene a plain-spoken, appealing narrator who relates the history of our heroine’s parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. Although her mother’s life ended as hers began, so begins a remarkable tale: equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, this is an utterly enchanting story…at once familiar and entirely new.
“She put jasper-and-pearl combs in my hair and yanked them so tight I cried – There, now you are a lady, she said… She put me in her own corsets like nooses strangling my waist till I was sick, my breath gone and my stomach shoved up into my ribs – There, now you’re civilized, she said… She forbade me to eat sweets or any good thing till I got thin as a dog and could hardly stand I was so damn hungry – There, now you’re beautiful, she said…”
This is the first Snow White retelling I have ever read and I was on the fence about getting it when I first saw it. But since I’m such a fan of fairy tale retellings, I placed it into my stack of books. Snow White as a mix between a white man and a Crow girl? I found that notion very interesting not to mention this Snow White has a little Mulan personality in her when she decided to cut her hair short so as to discourage the other men’s attention on her.
If you think the original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs fairy tale was sad, think again. The Snow White in Six-Gun Snow White made me gasp when she told of how her step-mother treated her, all in the name of a twisted sort of love. The story was divided into two parts, the first part was Snow White narrating the story of how her parents met and her childhood while she was growing up. In the second part, her story is narrated after she escaped from her step-mother. If anything, I found this retelling more twisted than the original version.
In the first part, the story was narrated in a gentle and pure manner. I could feel Snow White’s innocence and hope as she tells of herself. She was still a child then. As the second part begins, the language becomes rough and vulgar as she frees herself from her step-mother and began to travel on horseback in search of the Crow nation to find out about her mother.
Most parts of the story are unlike the original Snow White but that is to be expected since the setting is in the Wild West where the rush for gold, silver and gemstones were rampant. However, the story seemed so realistic that I was surprised when the element of fantasy entered the book. I saw Snow White as a mixed child who was abused by her step-mother. I forgot entirely about the magic mirror. The thing about the mirror was fantastical and vague but it blends beautifully into the story.
The dwarfs were transformed into fugitive women in Six-Gun Snow White. Each woman was unique and tough. They asked no questions but still they took Snow White in. However, even though the story was reconstructed and reads differently from the original well-known fairytale, the core of the story remains the same. There’s Snow White, the evil step-mother, the poisoned apple, the seven dwarfs and the prince. Oh, the prince was a pleasant change. Other than Snow White, his character was another enigma.
Even though I’ve already finished the book hours before I type this review, I’m still pondering on the ending of the book. I can’t decide whether or not it was a happy ending. I’m not sure if I loved the ending other.