Review Blog

Sep 12 2013

Scarlet in the snow by Sophie Masson

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Random House, 2013. ISBN 9781742758152.
(Age 12+) Highly recommended. There seems to be a real fashion for updating fairy tales in recent times. Of course, over the years there have been many retellings of traditional tales, but this latest foray seems to be concentrated in presenting new versions in more adult formats vis-a-vis cinematic offerings such as Snow White and the huntsman or Mirror mirror or books such as Moonlight and ashes (also by Sophie Masson).
Sophie Masson presents a new styling of the old 'beauty and the beast' traditional tale (La belle et la bete), first published in 1740, and gives it a new and engaging twist that will be sure to captivate the girls looking for something with rather more substance than the general pulp fiction in the romance genre. Carefully employing many of the original elements of the story - a once rich family reduced to poverty, the enchanted forest, a mysterious mansion occupied by an apparently invisible owner, tables laden with magical food, and most importantly a beautiful rose plucked innocently without any malice - Masson weaves a complex but beautiful rendering of the story breathing real life into the characters and their circumstances.
Tragedy, revenge, intrigue and love triumphant are crafted into an unravelling of the story in which Masson has combined selected motifs of the many hundreds of versions of the original tale. Taking her setting from Russia and drawing most heavily on the version retold in that country, the author has created highly believable and very human characters in Natasha, Ivan and even Old Bony. There is a definite tone of steampunk in the later settings/incidents in the book which this reader found highly engaging.
With teaching notes available from the publisher this would make a terrific book for lower secondary students engaged in shared reading or a book group. Highly recommended for able readers 12 and up - especially girls.
Sue Warren

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