Book Review: Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

Valente, author of the YA series The Fairyland Quartet, Deathless, and Radiance, has created the perfect and original mythopoeia in Six-Gun Snow White. Imagine the trappings of the old Grimm tale marrying the trappings of an Old West Tall Tale. Snow White is the child of “Mr. H.,” and a Crow woman he practically stole from her tribe. When her mother dies, Snow is well treated, with a boardwalk and menagerie to keep her entertained as well as a six-gun with a ruby in its grip. She names it Rose Red. Mostly, though, Snow was treated with benign neglect because she couldn’t be seen by high society. In fact, Mr. H didn’t even tell anyone he had married, let alone had a child.

As readers know, there’s a wicked stepmother on the horizon, and she comes in the form of a fallen Boston woman. It’s Mrs. H who gives Snow White her cruel name, because it’s the one thing Snow will never be – white. Mrs. H invades Snow’s private places and demonstrates just enough magic to destroy her boardwalk sanctuary. In return, Snow hunts down and finally finds her stepmother’s secret mirror. Snow’s horse is named Charming, and instead of a huntsman it is a Pinkerton on her tail. What Valente does with the “seven” is really quite brilliant.

Six-Gun Snow White is a verbal delight, and Snow White is one pistol packing young girl you simply don’t want to mess with. It is full of insightful lines, such as “Magic is just a word for what’s left of the powerless once everyone else has eaten their fill.” Valente’s freshness and originality sucks a reader right in, and it will stay with you long after you’ve closed the last page.

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