Book: Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne Valente
Published November 2015 by Saga Press|128 pages
Where I Got It: I own the e-book
Genre: YA Western/Fairy-Tale Re-Telling/Novella
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. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have.
Six-Gun Snow White sounded really good and different, and I was pretty excited about reading it, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.
It’s an interesting take on Snow White, and I like that it’s a western, because that seems pretty rare for YA. And yet, I felt really distanced from what was going on, which made it hard to get into. I felt like I was being told what was going on, instead of seeing what was going on, and it felt like it was being told to me by a third party, instead of Snow White herself.
The ending was a cop-out! It felt very slapped together and like there wasn’t a lot of thought put into it. Which I thought was odd, because it otherwise felt like a thought of thought went into the story. It also felt very halting, and it was a little hard to get through.
As a re-telling, it does follow the original story of Snow White pretty well, but in a different setting and time period. How Snow White got her name was sad, and I felt like it was a dig on the step-mother’s part. There are some differences, of course, but overall, I thought she did a fantastic job re-telling it, with Prince Charming as a horse, and with the dwarves as women. As a western, though, I couldn’t get into it all.
I can’t speak to how accurate all of the Native American stories we see in the novella are, but Snow as half-white and half-Crow Indian was a different take on the original story, and why Snow White getting the name of Snow White was sad. There is a lot of abuse and racism in the novella, so it’s probably closer to the Grimm version of the story then any other book out there. It’s darker than I expected, and given how the story is written, novella length is probably the perfect length for it.
I had a hard enough time getting through it, and at one point, I was dangerously close to not finishing it, even though it’s not that long. But since it’s not long, I figured I could tough it out and finish it. Because of the length, though, you don’t get a lot of details, which could have been really interesting. It does make me wonder what this novella could be if it were novel-length, but not if it were written the way the novella is.
2 stars. I thought about giving it one star, but it gets two because the book as a re-telling was really really good, but how it was told didn’t work for me.