{Review} SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE by Catherynne M. Valente

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to Catherynne M. Valente!!!

This week, the list of 2014 Hugo Awards Finalists went up.
SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE has been nominated for Best Novella!!!!

SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE has ALSO been nominated for a Nebula Award!

These are two of the biggest honors any sci-fi/fantasy book can receive!

If you've missed one of 2013's best novellas that's hitting every major list, check out my review, and then hurry up and get reading!!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

I accept with equanimity that you will not credit me when I tell you Mr. H married a Crow woman and had a baby with her round about the time he struck his fortune in the good blue, which is how folk used to designate Nevada silver. It don't trouble me none if any soul calls me a liar.

(Page 7, US e-book edition)

If the title alone doesn't tell you straight-up, be forewarned: SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE is unlike any fairy tale you've encountered up until now. For one thing, it takes place in the Old West. The dialogue and atmosphere are saturated in this time period. There's also a flair of Native American folklore, since Snow White is half-Crow. All of the chapter headings are a nod to this sort of lore. The 207-page novella is also a cautionary tale like the fairy tales of old as opposed to the Happily Ever After retellings that are so popular today. Not everything can be gritty and perfect. At times, this unflinching tale can lean adult, so it's not for younger readers, either. Top that all off with Catherynne M. Valente's gorgeous writing style and you have a unique tale like no other.

Snow White has it rough. Her father struck it rich mining silver, but he keeps Snow hidden away. No one knows he has a daughter who is half-Crow. When he remarries, Snow wants desperately to love her stepmother and be loved. Her stepmother, on the other hand, is determined to make Snow pious and pure. She mockingly calls her new stepdaughter "Snow White" because her skin can never be as pale as her own. When Snow runs away to fend for herself, she learns the cold, hard truth about being all alone in the world, and has the naivety torn from her eyes on her journey...

There is a lot of racism present in SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE, but it's a sign of the times, and handled well. It's also part of what makes the story work. Snow is treated unfairly because she's mixed and Native Americans aren't respected in the West like White Men are. Snow has to fight for every scrap and morsel she gets out in the West, and she lets go of her own morals in order to survive. She's gritty and tough, and the situations she finds herself in come to life through Valente's vivid wording. There's also a lot of dialect, so this novella isn't for everyone, but if you can embrace its nature, you'll fall into its cadence.

I really enjoyed the way Valente brought traditional elements of the fairy tale into the novel. For example, she escapes on her horse...whose name is Charming. She doesn't like to eat apples. She names her gun Rose Red. There are seven stools in a saloon that everyone fights over, and later on, we once again see the fateful number seven, this time in reference to the seven outlaws who run Montana territory. The list of references goes on, some more nuanced than others, lending the novella a feel that is both traditional and new in the same breath. It also has the flavor of Native American folklore, and I love the way every chapter has titles such as Snow White Is Instructed By Heron and Lizard, or Snow White Deals the Dead Man's Hand, or Snow White Covers Her Tracks With Her Tail. Gives it a little extra flair, you know?

Valente has written many adult novels over the years, but is perhaps well known for her popular middle-grade Fairyland series, the first of which is titled THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING. Her gorgeous writing is once again present, only roughed up with more slang thrown around. If you've never read a book by Valente before, now's the time to start. After all, don't you want to look smart when SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE wins a bunch of awards and you can snobbishly tell everyone you read her when? ^.~
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

There is SO MUCH going on! This cover is perfect. It looks like a Western. It looks Native American. There's all this wildlife, and the hard beauty of the desert. The danger that comes from the bleeding woman. Our Snow White on horseback. It looks crazy and different and AWESOME. I love everything about this cover!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Release Date: Feb. 28, 2013
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Received: Borrowed

From New York Times bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente comes a brilliant reinvention of one the best known fairy tales of all time. In the novella SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE, Valente transports the title's heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West where Coyote is just as likely to be found as the seven dwarves. 

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. 

Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.


  1. This one sounds great! I don't think I've seen ANY fairytale retellings set in the Wild West. Nifty!


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