Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran
Headline, hb, £14.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
A beautiful you woman marries a king and becomes step-mother to a dark princess. As the princess grows in power, so the queen must turn to alternative methods to protect the kingdom. Told from the point of view of the stepmother, this is a retelling of the Snow White story with a trademark Gaiman slant where nothing is quite as it seems. With the stepmother as a naïve young girl in love with a golden-haired king, and Snow White very different to the Disney version we’re all so familiar with.
What sets this story apart from other retellings is that it is a graphic novel and the reader is treated to a sumptuous visual feast.
The panels are highly decorative, with limited use of panels to contain the story. Instead, there are single and double-page spreads where the stepmother’s thoughts guide the reader through the flow of the story. It reminded me of both Japanese manga and art-nouveau styles, and they complement each other well. Visually, this is an incredibly beautiful book that I won’t get tired of looking at.
This is not a story for children. The horror elements of Snow White as a vampire and the bloody methods used to kill one are gritty and the stepmother’s demise is horrific. It also picks up on the king’s sexual interest in the young woman who becomes his new wife and explores how the prince could be interested enough in a corpse to want to kiss her. It is more in keeping with the ethos of the original fairy tales than any retelling for children and young adults now.
For an antagonist to work, they have to be the hero of their own story, and we are currently in a trend of re-examining fairy stories from different points of view, including the antagonist. But where this differs from others you might read is the choice of Snow White as an evil creature. This is not just the lack of witnesses at a crucial moment that turns Maleficent from the villain to the hero in the Disney story of the same name. The stepmother does want to kill Snow White because she is trying to protect the realm from her, and she is a witch because it is the only way she can see to save everyone. Changing Snow White to a nameless, manipulative vampire elevates this to a horror version of a well-known story that should not be missed.