Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M Valente (Book Review)

six gun snow white

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente is a re-envisioning of the tale of Snow White. Only there are no medieval knights here. No troop of dwarves and no enchanted forest. Instead there is the wild west and the mining towns and the Crow Indians and the half-breed child that grows into a young woman called Snow White.

In this tale of the old west a Nevada Silver baron falls for a beautiful Crow girl by the name of Gun That Sings. But the girl will have nothing to do with him. Using his influence and threats of violence, he forces the Crow to give up the girl and takes her into his home as his bride. Gun That Sings relents to his will but only to protect her people and as she gives birth her life ends. But the world she leaves behind is no place for a half-native, half-white little girl. The child is hidden away in the great home, taught to read some, but mostly left to the servants to raise. She learns to survive and to shoot. Shooting being one of the things she loves best. Alas life must change and for the young child it does when her father re-marries. Her new Stepmother calls the child Snow White and through beatings and verbal abuse, tries to transform her into a young white girl. But the new Stepmother has secrets of her own. Secrets she keeps hidden behind a great cloth. Underneath which is a mirror to another world.

Snow White knows that her stepmother will eventually kill her so she runs. With her guns and her horse she sets out. But on heels, pursuing rapidly are the bounty hunters that reach out with her Stepmother’s hand.

Familiar but creatively original, Six-Gun Snow White is told in small chapters that more readily resemble journal entries than a plotted story. With her guns at her hip, Snow White is easily a match for any man but it is the rejection of her father and her own people that she finds difficult to deal with. She finds solace in the dust of the west and the coyotes that track her. While retelling a well known fairy tale, Six-Gun Snow White also delves into the plight of women in the old west as well as that of the native people. More so even that of a native woman.

But mainly it is a really good tale. A story of loss and pain. A tale of survival and the discovery of self-worth.

This rendition of Snow White will stay long with you.

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