Book Review: Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

Six-Gun Snow WhiteSix-Gun Snow White
Catherynne M. Valente, illustrated by Charlie Bowater
9781481444736, paperback, adult fiction/fantasy, $14.99

Publisher Description: 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.

WildlyRead Shelftalker: Imagine Snow White, in the Wild West, a mix of White settlers and Native traditions. Now up the ante on the dark fantasy elements in the hands of master storyteller, Valente. The voice of each character – some familiar, some new – shine through the haunting and lyrica narration, the language reminiscent of an oral storytelling tradition. A reimagined classic with a new ending that brings Snow White all the way into the 21st century.

Personal Thoughts: As a reader and as a developing writer, I was fascinated by this retelling. I’m a big fan of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, so I knew Valente had the storytelling chops to create, or recreate, a fantasy world, but I was curious to see how she’d do it Western-style. Playing off of Native American oral storytelling traditions was truly inspired, though I don’t know Valente’s heritage, and am always wary of appropriation. Thinking back on this book is a little like trying to catch a slippery thought – I know I had a strong reaction to it at the time, but I’m having trouble putting it into words now. This was one of those books that I didn’t want to put down, but also didn’t love, but am also thinking about weeks later, and would definitely recommend it to other readers. Make of that what you will, but I’m off to go read more Valente.


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