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White as Snow

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  3,572 ratings  ·  233 reviews
Once upon a time there was a mirror. . . .

So begins this dark, unusual retelling of the story of Snow White by the writer reviewers have called “the Angela Carter of the fantasy field”—a whole novel based on a beloved story, turning it into a dark and sensual drama full of myth and magic.

Arpazia is the aging queen who paces the halls of a warlord’s palace. Cold as winter,
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 7th 2001 by Tor Books (first published September 5th 2000)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  3,572 ratings  ·  233 reviews

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There are some beautiful aspects of this book, and then there's the fact that nearly every female character is raped, often multiple times. The beauty is mostly in some of the writing and descriptions, though some of the ideas are also pretty interesting in theory -- Lee blends the story of Snow White with the Greco-Roman myth of Hades and Persephone.

This isn't either story as you know it, though, and for me it ultimately didn't work. The two stories didn't blend very well, because I was spendin
Sep 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
I certainly didn't expect this book to be a chore when I first picked it up. It sounded intriguing. A retelling of Snow White? With the Queen's perspective? Told with some of the Persephone myth thrown in? Sign me up!

And I think having my hopes way up is worse, somehow, than not being sure what to expect. Because I got two-thirds through this before I realized how much I disliked it, and then I was invested in finishing it.

I didn't like that almost all the female characters are raped. I guess it
Mar 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: adults who like fairy tales
This is simply the finest novelization of a fairy tale. Tanith Lee has created a simply marvelous world where the Snow White tale is retold.

Read it again in June 2015; some books truly are my old friends...

Ok, so I'm rereading this one again too! A patron was talking to me about books at the library and how sad it was when there was only one book left in the system. I told him that one of my favorite books of all times (which I own) has only one copy in the system and he wanted to know
And the girl went on staring at the forest. Her name was Arpazia. Her hair was black as the woods, her pale skin better than the snow. Her eyes, though, were a light, water-gray. She was fourteen years of age. She longed for change, not knowing the change of all things was almost upon her, not what it could mean.

This story starts out about Arpazia, Tanith lee's reimagined 'evil queen' of the Snow White tale. Except the queen is not really evil, we learn early on of the tragedy Arpazia went t
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Tanith lee's "White As Snow" is yet another rewrite of the classic fairy tale "Snow White." All the original elements can be found here, the wicked queen, the young princess, and the dwarves, the enchanted mirror and apple make an appearance as well, but to a lesser degree. In this authors work everything is tilted, twisted and warped into a dark, blood soaked novel.
I appreciate lee's vision, I understand the barbaric cruelty and tortured mother/daughter relationship she try's, and partly succe
I'm sure everyone should know by now that I absolutely love fairytale retellings. And if you didn't know, well, now you do.

This book is basically everything I want in a fairytale retelling, and so much more.

It takes the tale of Snow White and spins it on its head, mixing in elements from Greek mythology, particularly the tale of Persephone and Demeter. It sometimes doesn't read like a fairytale retelling; oftentimes, it's so loose it may as well be its own story. But even so, it keeps the imager
May 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: borrowed, fantasy, adult
Tanith Lee's White as Snow is elegent and sensual and terrible. Not terrible as in badly written, but terrible in it's absence of feeling, hideous in it's coldness. It's a fairy tale in which there can be no truly happy ending.

This version of Snow White is twined with the myth of Demeter and Persephone. It begins with Arpazia, the little girl who becomes the witch queen, then follows with Coira, her unwanted daughter, product of rape. In fact, about halfway through the book, I lost track of how
James Kibirige
Wow what an incredible feat of creative writing this book is. I absolutely loved this book, I was drawn in and hooked too the end. Tanith Lee deftly weaves the snow white story with celtic legend and classical mythology into a marvel of fantasy literature. Tanith Lee's writing is artistic; unique quirks, accents and touches abound. The story is like a dance, with pivots and twirls that would challenge the best ballet dancer. You can tell that this book was lovingly made, it is the best snow whit ...more
Heather *Undercover Goth Queen*
This is one of my favorites by Lee, and one of my favorite retellings. It was so rich and weird and dark. But there were moments of softness that isn't typical of Lee, but which were really well done.

I found Arpazia's story arc unbearably sad. I even cried a little at the end.

And the romance—I am DEAD. Loved it.
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was a lot I liked about this book, and a lot that I didn't, or a lot that I was just indifferent to. Weaving the tale of Hades and Persephone into Snow White always seemed superfluous and odd; there are no natural parallels and the ones Lee makes feels like one tale being forced onto another, and sometimes the elements of Snow White, of which this is allegedly a retelling, disappear into the other. And there are what I feel like small fudgings or just plain mistakes, like saying that it wa ...more
Another one where I was bored by the end. Although this might've also been not really for me in general. It was a bit too subtle about some of the themes and stuff it was going for.

And it wasn't what I expecting from the Persephone namecheck in the description. (It messes with the Snow White aspect, but I don't love that myth like I do Persephone, so I didn't care as much.)

Oh, and this is also pretty dark and trigger warning for (view spoiler).

Mostly, though, I think there w
This retelling of Snow White is Lee's second and very lamentable attempt at reworking this tale, and one I'd recommend to avoid at all costs. It's that terrible, surprisingly terrible for an author that managed to pull out one of the best retellings of this same tale I've read (in her "Red as Blood" anthology) and whose prose is usually lovely. I can almost see her thought process for choosing to go for the darkest of dark twists yet not being able to handle it with the deft hand it'd have requi ...more
Aug 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
One of the most confused and disjointed fairytale retellings I've laid eyes on. I personally think it among Tanith Lee's worst works.

Lee's choice in narration, using a very distant authorial voice, served to disengage me from the story immediately. People "were doing" or remembered things through the lens of long ago an awful lot, with awkward phrasings that I stumbled over (and I devour Gene Wolfe and Cathrynne Valente; this wasn't a case of it being written above my head, but of it being writ
Jenn Doyle
This is the second time I read this book and the really interesting thing is I don't think I picked up on ANY of the major themes the first time. In my own defense it was over ten years ago that I read it, but it was like reading a brand new book this second reading.

First and foremost this is not a book for children. Young adults may be able to read it, but it is definitely intended for adults. There are continuing themes of rape, reflection, mythology, madness, and the idea that life is what y
Serena W. Sorrell
I do so adore Tanith Lee. So when I picked up White as Snow I was expecting something good; I was not disappointed.

The story follows two main threads: Arpazia and Coira, mother and daughter. They are very similar and extremely different and serve as mirrors and foils to the other. The whole set up is quite breathtaking and serves to tell a Snow White story unlike any I have read before.

The imagery, the mythology woven into the tale, and the directions it took me in emotionally and psychologica
Laura Guill
Mar 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, 2012
This was one of the most miserable books I've ever read. Yes, lots of sex (as I was expecting, since it's marketed as an adult fairy tale), but it was all impersonal and detached. Lots of rape, lots of women being used. However, the women hardly ever reacted, and when they did seem to actively participate--the author then skipped over it. Smutty romance novel this was not. It seemed more about abuse and misery. Even having read Game of Thrones, this book has a striking lack of empathy or--any--e ...more
May 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Reading Tanith Lee is a little different than reading other modern-day authors. Her stories are replete with psychological undertones, more Jungian than Freudian, although they also rely heavily on the sensuous side. There is a dark and obscure tone to her stories that reveals the feminine mystique that is in all of us.

I have really enjoyed Lee's other books like The Secret Books of Venus, and I noticed that White as Snow has a similar theme, where misfits come together and fall in love, despite
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Beautiful writing as always but I couldn't connect to any of the characters and the story was a real drag.
I'm addicted to retellings of fairy tales that turn the story upside down. For all that I love Tanith Lee and Terri Windling's Fairy Tale Series, this book was too dark by far. Snow White has always been a rather bloody story but this version takes it to a new level of nasty.

The women in this book are brutalized in every way possible. They are raped, imprisoned, discarded and left to die while the powerful male characters move on to destroy lives with impunity. Lee's storytelling is beautifully
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book gave me an emotional beating both times I've read it. The first time I was a preteen and the second time was this month. But I couldn't stop reading it. I had to see our two main characters (Arpazia and Coira) through to the end. But I feel like I was put on a rollercoaster with zero safety features and somehow I came out of it alive but a bit scarred.
Took me a long time to figure out how to rate this. White as Snow is so beautifully written and emotional, yet it took me a long time to finish despite its short length. Some parts completely held my attention, while other chapters were a bit less engaging.

I loved Arpazia. I'm kind of devastated by her terrible ending. (she didn't deserve that, Tanith Lee! It's not fair!) She was a villain, but still so relatable to me. I really empathized with her. I've seen a trend in novels and movies lately
Feb 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I absolutely love fairytale retellings. Over time, many fairytales have become simplified, saccharine, and flat. The sad thing is that fairytales were dark and complex, meant for adults instead of children. The good thing is that it allows writers so much room to work with them and reshape them. Tanith Lee is a genius. This book is a clever combining of Snow White, the Demeter/Persephone myth, and the 7 deadly sins, with political intrigue and Medieval culture. It is very dark, in a way that I ...more
Cristina Rose
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: magic, winter
I'm really picky with fairy-tale retellings. I don't really like them to be sugar coated, or diluted, because that just defeats the purpose for me..

However I loved this book. it's very* psychological, draws heavily on the fairy tale of snow white, and myth, which i love and i felt it did it justice. it is a dark a strange carnival. so if you don't like certain dark themes, avoid it, because the elements add to the characters maladies, theres a lot of symbolism. its twisted and evocati
Tanja Berg
This is a re-writing of the Snow White tale, mostly out of the the view of the Queen. There was some high-flying literary experiments going on here that I did not have the patience to try to understand. So when my boredom reached it's peak at 30%, I left it.

This is not a bad book I suppose - so don't let me deter you from reading it, if you fancy to do so - it just was not to my taste. Wrong book at the wrong time.
Kate Forsyth
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary retelling of the Snow White fairytale – dark and sensual and strange and rather frightening – with some astonishingly good writing. I have never read anything by Tanith Lee before but I will be hunting down her other books for sure. I’d be very careful about giving this to children to read, though – it is very confronting and even shocking in parts.
Apr 19, 2017 rated it liked it
It drew me onward, I didn't want to put the book down. I was sorry for almost everyone. And sorry that she couldn't pull something more positive out of the bones of the tale. Although it could have been worse. I wonder about the setting. I was guessing Hungary or further down the Mediterranean toward Greece. A search for Marusa says that it's a Slovenian name.
i v a n a
That was incredible- never have I read fairytale and myth so seamlessly combined.... wow
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it
That was... interesting. Beautifully written, like all of Tanith Lee's books, but more disturbing than the others I've read from her. The characters are all incredibly cold with very little feeling, and the feeling they do have is angry, dark and full of narcissism. I love Tanith Lee, but this was not one of my favorites from her. Honestly this book was vivid, dark and mostly without hope, a weirdly beautiful grim dark retelling of snow white.

But the rape through out completely ruined it for me
May 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
A dark and sensuous read. The novel is not explicit. While everything is in metaphors and poetic verse everything is conveyed. While I appreciated the author trying to intertwine the ideas from snow white and the greek tale of Persephone and Hades, the story lost its foundation. The novel spiralled into pagan rituals and sex.

The novel was very dark. The women seemed to take anything without complain. Rape occurs frequently in this novel and necrophilla makes an appearance. I could not abide watc
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tanith Lee keeps startling me with how much I enjoy her re-interpreted fairy tales. This isn't just a simple "I Wonder What If" story, where the main characters are thrown into present day, or had their genders reversed, or cast as animals, or anything like that. The book combines Snow White and the Seven Dwarves with the myth of Demeter and Persephone, at a time when Christianity was taking all the old stories and turning everyone into Mary, or Jesus, or the Seven Deadly Sins. (Remember the dwa ...more
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Tanith Lee was a British writer of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. She was the author of 77 novels, 14 collections, and almost 300 short stories. She also wrote four radio plays broadcast by the BBC and two scripts for the UK, science fiction, cult television series "Blake's 7."
Before becoming a full time writer, Lee worked as a file clerk, an assistant librarian, a shop assistant, and a wai

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“Once upon a time fairy tales were told to audiences of young and old alike. It is only in the last century that such tales were deemed fit only for small children, stripped of much of their original complexity, sensuality, and power to frighten and delight.” 67 likes
“To most people today, the name Snow White evokes visions of dwarfs whistling as they work, and a wide–eyed, fluttery princess singing, "Some day my prince will come." (A friend of mine claims this song is responsible for the problems of a whole generation of American women.) Yet the Snow White theme is one of the darkest and strangest to be found in the fairy tale canon — a chilling tale of murderous rivalry, adolescent sexual ripening, poisoned gifts, blood on snow, witchcraft, and ritual cannibalism. . .in short, not a tale originally intended for children's tender ears. Disney's well–known film version of the story, released in 1937, was ostensibly based on the German tale popularized by the Brothers Grimm. Originally titled "Snow–drop" and published in Kinder–und Hausmarchen in 1812, the Grimms' "Snow White" is a darker, chillier story than the musical Disney cartoon, yet it too had been cleaned up for publication, edited to emphasize the good Protestant values held by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. (...) Variants of Snow White were popular around the world long before the Grimms claimed it for Germany, but their version of the story (along with Walt Disney's) is the one that most people know today. Elements from the story can be traced back to the oldest oral tales of antiquity, but the earliest known written version was published in Italy in 1634.” 6 likes
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