the Little Red Reviewer

Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss

Posted on: February 5, 2019

Snow White Learns Witchcraft, by Theodora Goss

publishes Feb  5th, 2019

Where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (thanks Mythic Delirium!)

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I have two pieces of excellent news for you today!  The first piece of excellent news is that Theodora Goss’s collection of short fiction and poetry, Snow White Learns Witchcraft, is available today! And the second piece of equally excellent good news is that if you’re not quite sure about buying this collection, a few  of the stories I mention below are available to read for free online. I’ve helpfully provided links, which #sorrynotsorry, will make you want to buy the book. Also, have I mentioned how awesome Theodora Goss is?

 

I am still trying to figure out how Goss crammed so much top notch story telling into this slender little book of just over 200 pages.  There is flash fiction, short poems, longer stories, stories that make me giggle, others that made me think deep thoughts, others that were simply joyful to read.  You’d think you could zip through a 200 page collection in a day or two, right? Yeah, you’d be wrong. This is one you want to savor and slowly dip into, enjoying the beautiful prose that will greet you on every page.  Don’t rush your way through, enjoy your walk through the forest, keep your eyes open for any wolves or taking bears, and allow yourself to be lured in.

 

And ok, can we talk about the poetry in this collection for a minute? I am freakin’ terrified of poetry.  Half the the time I just don’t get it, half the time I spend so much time stumbling over the meter enforced word choices that I don’t even know what the sentence means, and the other half the time i just don’t enjoy it. Poetry is clubhouse I’ve never known the secret password to.

 

And now Theodora Goss has me all turned around in the best possible of ways. These poems are photographs, they are short stories until themselves where the idea is more important than the meter. I’d classify them as songs or vignettes before classifying many of them as poems. Sorry if I just insulted all the poets reading this. Thanks to this collection, I feel more comfortable reading poetry, I now feel like I can get something out of it, that there is a story in there for me.  This book is my secret password to the poetry clubhouse.

 

A few words on my favorite poems:

 

Diamonds and Toads which tells a story about two sisters one who has a positive attitude so gets diamonds, and other who has a negative attitude so gets toads,  and how maybe the two sisters are actually one person and that none of us are completely positive or completely cranky, and it’s the balance that helps us live full lives. Diamonds come in handy, but it’s amazing how often toads come in handy.

 

Thorns and Briars, which is a poem you can read in under 60 seconds. I like this one because it starts out as a fairy tale or myth might, where some is locking their heart away for the right person to find. And then, well, life happens, and the right person does claim her heart.

 

Goldilocks and the Bear, which tells an endearing story about how Goldilocks really met the bear that she ends up marrying. Apparently I just love stories about thieves and bears and honey and people realizing it’s ok to be vulnerable and living happily ever after and that a strong relationship means knowing your partner isn’t perfect and will never be perfect, and that’s kind of what makes them perfect.

The Nightingale and the Rose, which is a straight up fairy tale told in poem form about a nightingale who decides to help the lovesick student win the girl.  Things don’t turn out anywhere near as planned, but luckily someone else is looking out for the nightingale. I liked this one because there is lots of people doing good deeds simply because they want to, they don’t care if anyone else knows about it.

 

Of the stories, here are my thoughts on some of my favorites:

 

Red as Blood and White as Bone (read it at Tor.com) – An orphan, the one thing that keeps Klara going is her book of fairy tales. Able to escape into these stories, she barely notices that has the lowest kitchen servant no one cares if she lives or dies. She barely notices the ugliness of the world.  When a bedraggled, seemingly homeless woman appears at the back door, Klara is convinced she is a lost princess who has come to the castle to marry the prince, just like in the story. And the woman is happy to play along with the story. I feel bad for Klara, because life is not a fairy tale, and this woman is not who she says she is.  This becomes the story of Klara losing her innocence, and I found myself angry at the woman at the door, who destroyed Klara’s joy in life, who took away the only thing she had that protected her from the ugliness of life. This story takes an unexpected turn at the end, making the end not quite match the beginning. But the ending works, because life is not a fairy tale.

 

Snow, Blood, Fur (read it at Daily Science Fiction) – Little Red Riding hood has grown up, and it’s days before her wedding to a safe, boring, accountant. As the wedding dress gets hemmed and the centerpieces are delivered, Rosie remembers how she walked to her grandmother’s house that day, how she met the wolf in the woods, how the wolf was really a hunter wearing a wolf pelt,  and he was waiting for her at her grandmother’s house. She remembers what she did that day, and how she rescued herself. There was freedom in that day, and she knows how to have freedom again. This story is short, gorgeously told, and full of spiked barbs. I loved every word of it.

 

Conversations With The Sea Witch – What happens after happily ever after? The little mermaid married her prince,  she figured out how land mammals have babies, she raised beautiful children with her much loved husband, she became Queen, she became a grandmother, she became the Dowager Queen.  And for all those decades, the only person she could talk to in her native tongue is the Sea Witch, the woman with whom she made that bargain with, all those years ago. What do these two old ladies talk about? The same thing all old ladies talk about – things  in their life that surprised them, their declining health, the romances of their youth, their regrets, their hopes for their grand children. I feel like these two ladies need each other, and the fact that they spend time with each other makes me happy inside. When I am at the end of my life, I want a friendship like this.

 

A Country Called Winter – Who doesn’t love a Snow Queen retelling? (Hi. I LOVE them)  In this modern day version, Kay is a handsome college student from Denmark, Gerda is a grad student teaching assistant, and the narrator, Veriska, is about to learn who she is, and the responsibilities of her birthright. This is The Snow Queen told from the point of view of the queen, who is not yet queen.   Veriska has an on-again off-again relationship with Kay, where she’s going, he shouldn’t follow. Will it break his heart if she leaves him behind? Another story that I absolutely loved, I enjoyed hearing about Veriska’s childhood, and how she was able to stay so ignorant of who she was. Kay is also an interesting character, and I didn’t mind at all that Gerda hardly got much of a mention.  The Snow Queen isn’t a villain you know, she’s just got more important things to deal with than college romances.

 

Ok, I’ve blabbed on long enough, and probably spoiled some of these stories for you. Sorry. Others that I enjoyed include Blanchefluer and Sleeping with Bears.  Anyway, go click the links to Tor.com and Daily Science Fiction, and let me know in the comments what you think of those.

 

 

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2 Responses to "Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss"

Sold! Like you, I’m intimidated by poetry, but these poems sound lovely. And I’m always interested in fairy tell retellings. The twists on these sound delightful.

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i can’t wait to hear what your favorites are!

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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