Helen Corcoran's Reviews > Blood Red, Snow White

Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
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's review
Mar 16, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: historical, young-adult, 2008
Read in January, 2008

The first thing that comes to mind is that at its very heart, this book wants to be a fairy tale and, in that respect, it is very beautiful and pretty much succeeds. One review of this on amazon stated that the style of this book is written to appeal to YA audiences and, as such, adults won't enjoy it at all. I definitely disagree. In regards to tone, this book reminds me of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It may appeal to MG and YA readers, but there are times where the writing has a sarcastic and ironic tone that delicately rips at the reader. There are also times that this doesn't read like a teen book at all - there are several older themes hinted at and a handful of curse words which are becoming more common in modern teen fiction, but rarely in historical fiction, so it was both refreshing and alarming to see (I think I'm saying this because I'm trying to curb my automatic cursing habit).

This is a novel of the Russian Revolution, as the front cover states. It begins at the beginning of the end of the Tsar regime and continues to WWII. It's divided into three parts, a fairy tale, a tale of war, and a tale towards freedom. If you have an interest in Russian history or, like me, suddenly had a craving for Russian stories, then you must read this book. Heck, you must read this book even if you don't. My assistant manager told me that I would fall in love with this book, and she was right. I deliberately read slowly because I didn't want to reach the end. I still didn't know how everything would turn out twenty pages from the end, and that rarely happens anymore when I'm reading books.

I love reading books that feature real-life historical characters (like Emma Donoghue's Life Mask), and this book also has that. Important Russian figures, like the assassinated Russian royal family, Rasputin, and Lenin and Trotsky, all feature in this book, but the protagonist is Arthur Ransome, who was a British spy while maintaining contacts with important Russian figures during the Revolution.

Sedgwick's writing is beautiful, sharp, and witty (I have some more of his books, and I'm pretty much saving them because I don't want to run out too quick). I would also recommend the hardback version - it's easy to carry around, and the paper is thick and made to look old, and the ink is a lovely dark red. Altogether, it's just a beautifully put-together book, and the writing matches it.

Above all, this book is about happy endings. You need to read it.

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