Review: A Dream of Ebony and White

Of all the books I've read from Melanie Cellier's Four Kingdoms and Beyond the Four Kingdoms series, I have to say that A Dream of Ebony and White is by far my favorite. This modern adaptation of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" combines all the best things about the original version of the story and contemporary versions such as Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, and Once Upon a Time. The main character's name is Blanche, with means "white," but her nickname is "Snow," allowing her to feel like an organic addition to Melanie Cellier's massive fairy tale world while still paying tribute to the beloved classic character. She is shy and sweet like the Disney version but gains confidence and inner strength throughout the course of the story like in recent adaptations.

What I liked the most about A Dream of Ebony and White is that it took all of the aspects of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" that we already know and intensified their emotional impact by telling them from Snow's perspective. In most versions of the tale, we see the queen command her huntsman to kill Snow White before the naive princess learns about it herself, making it less impactful when she finds out later. In this version, we feel the full range of confusion, shock, and horror when Snow's beloved childhood friend, who also happens to be a royal huntsman, sneaks into her room and whisks her away to the middle of the woods with no idea where she's going or why until she learns the awful truth that her life is in danger. The book evokes an incredible sense of relief when she discovers a small cottage where she can restore her strength after wandering aimlessly for days with barely any food or rest until she felt she could die of exhaustion at any given moment.

In most recent film adaptations of Snow White, the formerly helpless heroine is given a weapon and trains to stage a rebellion and take back her rightful place on the throne from her wicked stepmother. This story follows the same contemporary trope, but without the implication that a pampered princess is able to transform into a skilled warrior over a matter of weeks. Instead, she receives lots of help from her huntsman, her grandfather, and former palace soldiers who swear loyalty to her over her stepmother. She does receive some training and a dagger much later in the book, but it's far more believable than the level of expertise she reaches in Snow White and the Huntsman or Once Upon a Time. Her shyness and insecurities are a big part of what makes her character so easy to relate to. She is not a natural-born warrior, but she doesn't need to be when there are so many that are willing to fight and even die for her. After all, the role of a queen is to lead.

I loved all the supporting characters from the fairy tale that were reimagined for this version. Instead of waking up to find seven dwarfs in the cottage, Snow awoke to seven children--both boys and girls--who had been either abandoned by their families or rescued from tragic situations. This faux orphanage was the perfect spot for Snow to hide from her wicked stepmother and pick up some of the skills she wouldn't have been able to learn by living in a castle. The fact that some of the children were girls made it easier for Snow to form a bond with them as well as making them more vulnerable to the evil queen's attempts on Snow's life. Her love interest, Alexander, was a huntsman instead of a prince, but unlike Snow White and the Huntsman, he didn't have that creepy age difference and was not the one chosen by the queen to kill her. That task was given to a different royal huntsman who was loyal to Snow's stepmother, allowing for an exciting face-off during the climax.

Overall, I have to say that A Dream of Ebony and White really hit the mark. It took all the best things about "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and turned into a fresh emotional tale with a gentle and kind-hearted heroine who was capable of growing as much as her situation required her to. The romance with Alexander was incredibly moving because he was there from the very beginning. Turning the seven dwarfs into seven orphan children made it far more urgent for Snow to defeat her stepmother and protect her new friends. If you are looking for a realistic modern take on this classic fairy tale, look no further than Melanie Cellier's latest book.


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