Poison – Sarah Pinborough

onceup8200 small This is the second book I’ve read for the Once Upon a Time VIII Challenge hosted by Carl@stainlesssteeldroppings. It’s also the 14th book I’ve read this year, but unfortunately this is not a lucky number. Enchanted by its cover, feeling abandoned after the first chapter, that’s how I would describe my experience with this new take on the Snow White fairy tale.

Snow is young and beautiful, of an earthy beauty, as the author mentions quite a few times in the book, sensual and voluptuous. Her stepmother, Lilith, is a beauty as well, the light, ethereal kind. The king is away at war (he’s neither handsome nor young, but coarse and old and stout) and Lilith is plotting to get rid of the beautiful Snow. There’s the huntsman, whom she pays for his services in a most unexpected way, the dwarves, loyal and kind and too trusty, and the handsome prince who’s charmed by the earthy beauty of Snow only to discover that he doesn’t really like straightforward, lusty princesses that make him feel somehow redundant. Also there’s something, a secret he keeps that made me wonder what kind of person he really is. He seems charming and lovely, but like with other things in this book, that’s just deceiving, and we never find out how he came to the forest or why. Poison
Snow, on the other hand, starts out as a young woman who enjoys life to the fullest, drinking beer with the dwarves and riding horses wearing men’s clothing. Everybody loves her, even though she can be a little rough, but a real lady when she has to which was a bit confusing. I’m not entirely convinced this book is not a parody, in which case it’s a good one.

Elements of other fairy tales are present – a glittering pair of shoes, an old woman leaving crumbs on the way to her house in the forest, and even Alladin and his lamp make a surprise appearance. The poisonous apple does its job yet again, but it’s not the prince who brings Snow back to life, and her accepting his marriage proposal feels more like a calculated move than an act of love. But that’s not what detracted me from the first few promising pages of the story. It was my inability to really like any of the characters – I almost ended up liking the step mother, as the author showed glimpses of her past – forced to marry young and go to a foreign kingdom to an old husband, it almost makes her a character to be pitied until she does something that makes her uninteresting and not really worth rooting for. It’s a shame, because more details about what happened in her childhood would have made her a more interesting character, if not one to like, perhaps one to respect.
The ending is shocking and would have been even better if we knew why it had to happen this way. It only added yet another unresolved mystery to the pile.

My rating: 2/5 stars

Read in March 2014

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10 Responses to Poison – Sarah Pinborough

  1. Lynn says:

    Oh, what a shame you didn’t like this. I read all three of these and really enjoyed them. The three books together all connect briefly and answer some unresolved questions. Plus I liked the twisted ending – which I totally didn’t expect. Like you, I also experienced a brief moment of sympathy for the step mother – where you can see a little of what lies beneath, but it was short lived.
    Lynn 😀

    • Delia says:

      I really wanted to like it, Lynn, but after the first chapter things went downhill. The only two intriguing characters were Lilith and the prince, but I wish we knew more about at least one of them. I think it would have made the story much more palatable. As it is, I felt like I only got fed morsels.
      I’m glad you liked it, though. Now I remember seeing the other two books as well, all three looked almost like a series, all hardcover and beautifully designed, but I thought I’d start small. I’m almost tempted to see what happened in the other two stories. 🙂

  2. Vishy says:

    Sorry to know that you didn’t like this book as much as you had hoped to, Delia. It is a shame really because you said the book as a physical object looked really beautiful. I used to love surprise endings, but these days when a surprise comes suddenly out of nowhere and doesn’t naturally follow from the story, I do feel cheated. It is interesting that the surprise ending to this story is another unresolved mystery 🙂 Hope you enjoy the next book that you read.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      I’m disappointed as well but it wasn’t only the ending that was surprising. The whole story had just too many edges.

      The book I’m reading now, Fate, by L.R. Fredericks, is quite an interesting adventure. I’m only halfway but not a dull moment so far.

  3. Brian Joseph says:

    Very interesting commentary on this one Delia.

    I do like the way that it seems the author has turned much of the traditional tale on its head and introduced some ambiguity into the characters.

    Too bad that seems like it just did not gel together.

    • Delia says:

      Too many weird angles in this one, Brian. I think the sex scenes complicated things unnecessarily. It’s a shame, there were some good points in the story.

  4. FictionFan says:

    Hmm…sounds as if maybe the author has tried to do too much by turning every charcater on their head and introducing stuff from other fairy tales. Oh well, better luck with the next one. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      That’s it, FictionFan, the author had the main characters do shocking things. Maybe it was to show that they’re all flawed but in the end it just confused me. And I didn’t find anyone to root for, and without that I found it difficult to enjoy the story.

  5. Caroline says:

    This doesn’t sound good at all. Although it could have been. I don’t need likable charcaters per se, or to be able to identify with them, but if they are all off putting . . .
    Plus I don’t like it when they add too many different elements from other fairy tales. It weakens the book.

  6. Delia says:

    It started really well but….it got very weird after a while.
    The combination with other fairy tales was not that bad, however too many mysteries left me confused.

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