Review of “The Fairest Beauty” by Melanie Dickerson

This retelling of Snow White is set in Germany in medieval times. Sophie (Snow White), 17, is a beautiful and kind scullery maid working for the evil Duchess Ermengard in Hohendorf. Unbeknownst to Sophie (who thinks she is an orphan), she is actually the stepdaughter of the Duchess and the long-dead Duke (presumed murdered by Ermengard). Moreover, she had been promised at birth to be the bride of Valten, the future Duke of Hagenheim.

the-fairest-beauty

Back in Hagenheim, Valten’s younger brother Gabehart (age 20) hears that Sophie did not die as an infant as his family had been told, but is alive and furthermore, she is in danger. He decides to go rescue her, in part because Valten is laid up with a broken leg. Needless to say, when Gabe gets one look at Sophie, he falls for her, and the rest, as they say, is – well – a fairy tale happy ending.

Discussion: This version of Snow White has a decidedly Christian bent. The thrust of the original story is pretty much intact, with the exception that Sophie has a strong faith; prays a lot to God; and both Sophie and Gabe struggle with making moral choices. They often implore each other to forgive evil in God’s name:

[Prince to Sophie]: “You must let God’s love and the blood of Jesus heal you of all those things the duchess said and did to you.”

None of this Christian slant impacts the retelling much.

I had a bit more of a problem with the frequent inclusion of stereotypical ideas of female beauty (including the size issue), female roles, and the nature of eroticism. Take this scene, for example, with Sophie and Gabe:

“She watched him go, her heart thumping happily in her throat as she admired the breadth of his shoulders and their obvious strength. Even with an injury, he was capable of taking care of her.

He came back inside and set down the bucket, then held out his hand to her.

She couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. … Her hand shook slightly as she let him enclose her small fingers in his larger, more powerful hand.”

That just makes me squirm, and not because I’m excited.

But there are good things about this story too. For instance, the seven dwarves have been transmogrified into seven perfectly lovable men with disabilities, who live apart because society fears and therefore shuns them.

Sophie states several times that she values love (such as she has with Gabe) over power and money (that she might have with Valten). (Although I did have to wonder how she could know in advance that she wouldn’t love Valten.)

There is an amusing ongoing side riff about Gabe’s problems placating his future relatives.

Evaluation: This is a sweet story (more tween than teen, I thought, although it is marketed as YA) that nicely echoes Snow White in spite of placing it in an historical setting. I wouldn’t choose it over other retellings however, unless one were looking for a tale that did not feature sex or violence and also incorporated Christian themes of forgiveness and redemption.

Rating: 2.5/5

Published by Zondervan, 2012

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9 Responses to Review of “The Fairest Beauty” by Melanie Dickerson

  1. Charlie says:

    This is a very fair review 🙂 I must admit I was liking it until the Christian part. That said if an author has made it work that’d be interesting.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I’m not a fan of fairy tale retellings so this probably isn’t for me.

  3. Sandy says:

    Retellings are a slippery slope. I don’t remember reading one that did anything for me, and if it were to blow me away, I would probably need some sex and violence. Heh heh.

  4. bookingmama says:

    I love the concept of the Seven Dwarves.

  5. Belle Wong says:

    Not quite my cup of tea, but great review, Jill.

  6. Jenny says:

    Bleh, I hate reading romancey things where the hero is going to take care of the heroine. I know that wasn’t the major point of your review! But it’s something that invariably pulls me out of the story when I encounter it.

  7. Beth F says:

    I like fairy tale retellings, but I’m not sure this one would do it for me.

  8. litandlife says:

    I jumped all over this as soon as I opened it and added to my list of books to read – it’s gone now. Thanks for setting me straight!

  9. 2.5 rating…I will pass. But as always I love reading your well-written thoughts about this title!

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