Thursday, February 18, 2016
Dark Shimmer, by Donna Jo Napoli
Another beautifully researched historical novels from Napoli, who does them so well and also does some of the most sophisticated retellings of myths and fables. That's a potent combination in this novel. There's all sorts of lovely detail here (from the science of mirror making and glass blowing to the social mores of the Venetians). And Napoli's re-imagining of the fairy tale and her refusal to fall on to magic in any way (she adeptly provides plausible explanations for everything from the poison apple to the glass coffin to the Prince's rescue) is enchanting.
However, I found this storytelling itself hard going. The beginning was fairly slow and it's only half-way through that the story of Snow White became recognizable. This is also the point in the story where our heroine becomes the villain -- a twist which is awkward in its unexpectedness. Having invested rather heavily in Dolce, it is asking a lot of the reader to accept her transformation. It makes her more sympathetic, to be certain, but should fairy tales really have sympathetic villains?