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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Mirror Mirror - Gregory Maguire I make no secret of my loathing for the Disney-fied version of Snow White. She's sweet, like a heaping mouthful of sugar. Cute little forest animals love her. As do dwarves. (Well, of course they do. She cleans their house and cooks their meals. I'd love my maid, if I had one.) She has absolutely no independence nor any agency in her story. Her job is to be angelic and pretty and wait for her prince to come. Despite that, many little girls and women find her story romantic. Me, I don't see how marrying the first stranger who kisses you is romantic. With most modern romances, at least, this is where the story begins, not ends. But not so Snow White. For her, getting hitched to anybody with a pair of lips is the endgame.

One would expect that the author of Wicked might inject something new into the story. Mirror Mirror, set in the early 1500s in Italy, departs slightly from the kiddie version of the tale by placing its focus on the witch. Here, the witch is the infamous Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of a pope, and sister to Cesare. One could argue, that for the most part, Lucrezia is the story's protagonist. Especially since Bianca de Navada--Snow White--is as dull and uninspired as her Disney counterpart.

Bianca lives in the country estate of Montefiore with her widower father, Vincente. Because Vincente acquired the estate with Lucrezia's help several years before, he owes the Borgias a favor. At the story's beginning, Lucrezia and Borgia visit Montefiore and demand that Vincente embark on a quest to find a bough from the Tree of Knowledge. Vincente is reluctant to go, but to refuse is to sign his and his beloved Bianca's death warrant.

Of course, Lucrezia "promises" to look after Bianca.

Fortunately, Lucrezia's version of child care is a kind of benign neglect. At least until the day Cesare arrives again at Montefiore and sets his lecherous sights on Bianca, who is just a child. Lucrezia, who "loves" her brother, immediately plots the child's death. Alas, she fails and the narrative loses its originality and starts to look a lot like the Disney version, right down to Bianca's vocation in housekeeping for little people.

As usual, the writing is lyrical and filled with lovely phrases, and occasional wry humor. The characterization is what I've come to expect from Maguire: a collection of prickly, odd, interesting, but not necessarily likable people. Mirror Mirror is entertaining, but it brings nothing new to an old fairy tale.