Fiction Reviews


(2013) Sarah Pinborough, Gollancz, £9.99, hrdbk, 200pp, ISBN 978-0-575-09297-6


Well, this is interesting, Sarah Pinborough, better known to date for her six American published horror novels and her supernatural crime series, the Dog-Faced Gods (also from Gollancz) has a big horror blockbuster inspired by Jack the Ripper on the way called Mayhem, but somehow she has managed to find the time between her many novel and screenwriting chores (as well as writing a trilogy under the pseudonym Sarah Silverwood) to produce Poison, the first of another trilogy to be followed by Charm and Beauty that have been inspired by classic fairy tales. Poison is described on the front cover as "A wicked, delicious, sexy Snow White fairytale" and "It's Snow White, but not as you know her…" followed by a claim that this is the true story of Snow White, the way the story should have been told.

So what do you get for your £9.99? Well, you get an attractively put together book with a red (in warning, perhaps?) cover and an illustration of a glass bottle, containing what, I wonder? Between the covers are just over 180 pages (40000 words) of text, divided into 12 chapters and an epilogue framed by illustrations from award-winning illustrator Les Edwards.

As for the story itself…well, we have the classic ingredients of the Snow White tale with seven dwarves along for the ride, and as expected there are wicked stepmothers, mirrors, poison, and a huntsman all given the unique Pinborough spin that comes down to 'expect the unexpected' with dark deeds, thoughts and emotions, and especially desires, driving the story. It is Snow White but not as we know her, or anyone else for that matter. Certainly the wicked stepmother, is well, uh, wicked, but out of necessity and circumstances and reluctantly has to set terrible events in motion for her own survival, while Snow White is not the sweetness-and-light innocent we expect her to be, although there is a tad of the Disney princess from Brave in there and also Princess Fiona from Shrek. Other fan reviews of Poison have been glowing and slightly OTT, concentrating on Snow White’s sexual education at the hands (and other parts) of the Huntsman, although some do mention a shocking, cliff-hangerish ending that will lead you into the other titles in this series, but I do wonder how familiar these reviewers are with the really original takes on these stories, particularly Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples short story and its subsequent radio adaptation?

If you follow Pinborough through Facebook and Twitter you will know she is a fan of fairy tales and in particular the TV series Once Upon A Time, and with fairy tales being big business on the cinema screen – think Snow White and Jack the Giant Killer and a recent Brothers Grimm type spin on Hansel and Gretel; and with fairy tales also big business on the TV screen and in comics – think DC’s Fables and its many spin-offs, not to mention the plethora of versions of fairy tales that constantly appear for children and young adults as either retellings or giving a different setting, even in the present day, it is timely that we get a different, feisty, steamy take on them. I fully expect Charm and Beauty to be just as entertaining and just as well received when they appear, and ultimately expect them to be all bundled together in one large volume.

Ian Hunter

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