Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (book review).
Taken from the cover: ‘A plain spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her 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. With her mother’s death in childbirth, so begins a heroine’s tale equal parts heartbreak and strength.’
Valente’s novel is a mythpunk mash-up where the classic Bavarian fairytale meets Native North American Coyote myth with a feminist twist.
What might at first sound like an unholy, crisps and chewing gum mix, actually blends together very well. There are no real surprises in the actual story, unless you’ve never read or seen Snow White, in which case, where have you been?
Valente’s half-breed heroine initially narrates her own story and has more in common with Annie Oakley rather than Disney’s animated songstress, which, in my humble opinion, is a good thing. Even her ironic naming by evil stepmother Mrs. H, subverts the ‘whiter-than-white’ image popularised by Walt Disney.
Many of the key elements of the original, European fairytale are present: the wicked queen, the huntsman, the seven dwarves, but they’ve been given a unique spin by Valente. Snow White herself, although ill-treated, is far from a passive victim in this tale and the seven dwarves aren’t exactly what you’d expect.
Valente makes every word count in this novella and has managed to pack a lot of layers of meaning into 167 pages. My only issue and it’s purely one of personal taste is that Snow White stops narrating her own story in Part Three because, as she says: ‘…no one can tell a true story about themselves.’
I’m not sure I agree with Snow White about this. Of course, I wouldn’t say so to her face as she might shoot me with her beautiful, gem encrusted guns. I think I would have liked her toown her story from beginning to end. Taking the narration duties from her made her the object, rather than the mistress of her own tale and I felt this undermined the spirit of the character.
Niggle aside, any reader who loves magical, poetic prose can dive into this sad and beautiful little story and take pleasure in the author’s elegantly rendered wordscapes.
KT Davies (@KTScribbles)
(pub: Subterranean Press. 167 page deluxe hardback. Price: $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-552-9)
check out website: www.subterraneanpress.com