Title: Snow White Rose Red
Author: Kate Forsyth
Illustrator: Lorena Carrington
Genre: Fairytales; Retellings
Publisher: Serenity Press
Published: May 2020

This review was first published in issue 34: Fan Fiction

In this enchanting collection of fairy tale retellings, Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington cast a spell of nostalgia and wonder as readers embark on a journey of lesser-known tales. With lessons that remain true and illustrations that ignite the imagination, the creative duo captures the selfish greed that ensnares the fortunate and celebrates the courage of kind young women.

Snow White Rose Red and Other Tales of Kind Young Women is a collection that honours the warm, whimsical, and dark nature of fairy tales. While the stories are inherently the same, Forsyth’s writing brings vibrancy to the characters and settings; in addition, she takes liberty to remove as many pejorative terms as possible to ensure an inclusive and enjoyable read.

Accompanying Forsyth’s writing, Carrington’s illustrations perfectly capture the magic and mystery of the tales. Through her use of photography and photo manipulation, Carrington brings each story to life with silhouetted scenes that are reminiscent of shadow plays. Each image displays a stunning scenery, contrasted by the silhouettes of the characters, either at the forefront or hidden away in the vines of a rose bush.

Unlike most collections, Snow White Rose Red and Other Tales of Kind Young Women offers readers an insight to the creative process of both author and illustrator through a creator’s note at the end of each story. Forsyth’s author’s notes serve as a historical appreciation, acknowledging the documented origins of each tale and any note-worthy retellings that either shaped the modern narrative or directly influenced her version of the story. Carrington’s illustrator’s notes offer a more personal insight, revealing her thoughts on particular scenes and characters, and how she envisioned them. Once I knew what these illustrations were made of—whether it be twigs or jelly—it was fun to go back and search for those objects in her work.

My favourite story in the novel is The Corpse Watchers, a tale that would have fascinated and unnerved me as a child. Collected by Patrick Kennedy in the 1860s, this Irish folktale teaches the importance of keeping one’s promise, even if it takes them to the end of the world. It’s a message I haven’t seen too often and found it to be a rather unique and refreshing take on the ‘Kind and Unkind Girls’ trope. The plot sees Brigid, the youngest of three sisters, promise to watch over a young man’s corpse through the night while his mother gets some rest. As the midnight hour chimes, the corpse comes to life. ‘Will you be brave enough to follow me, wherever I may lead?’ he asks. What follows is Brigid’s determination to keep her promise no matter how dangerous the night gets. The lands she must traverse are both horrifying and stunning, allowing both creators to elicit vivid scenery through captivating words and illustrations. While a little eerie, Brigid’s determination is undeniably inspiring.

Snow White Rose Red and Other Tales of Kind Young Women is the perfect introduction to lesser-known tales. It presents its readers with a unique insight into the oral and documented history of each piece, and how they have evolved within the public domain. This collection features an array of bright young women who take agency in their stories and remain fearless in the face of temptation. With a focus of confronting adversity, Forsyth and Carrington inspire their readers with the message that kindness is the true display of courage.

Underground Team
editors.underground.writers@gmail.com

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