What if Snow White wasn’t a princess? What if she had no royal heritage, no famous or important parents, no special lineage, nothing remarkable about her at all… except WHO she IS? She, herself, deep inside. The person she is, with her own talents and shortcomings, hopes and dreams, fears and failings.
What if she grew up in a magical circus, the only non-magical person in a world of fae? But what if she didn’t know the rest of the people in the circus were magical? What if she had no idea why she’d been raised there, why the circus owner was keeping her alive, and what fate awaited her?
And what if, one day, someone opened her eyes to the truth?
Those are just a handful of the questions posed by Skye Hoffert’s dark, glittering Snow White retelling “Falling Snow,” the first novella in the Five Poisoned Apples anthology. Set during the early twentieth century, it gives us a pure and sweet girl named Snow who stands out like a white rosebud in the middle of the sweat and sawdust trappings of her circus life.
Snow works as a clown, along with seven dwarfs. She thinks they’re just short humans, not magical beings. She dreams of being a tightrope walker, and practices whenever she gets a chance, though she keeps this desire secret as much as she can. The only person she truly confides in is Chayse.
Though his mother owns and manages the circus, Chayse prefers to spend his time with the performers. Especially Snow, lately. But Chayse fears how she’ll react when she finally learns the truth about the beings around her, including himself. So he keeps his mother’s secret until the day a newcomer boldly reveals the truth about the people Snow thinks she knows.
All during the story, people underestimate Snow. Because she’s human, because she’s young, because she’s a girl, because she’s innocent. And every time they underestimate her, they fail to understand that it’s her very ordinariness that gives her power. That being trampled on makes her resilient. Being ignored makes her invisible. Being told she’ll fail gives her a drive to succeed. And being groomed for sacrifice makes her desperate.
The first time I read “Falling Snow,” I thought I loved it because of the setting and because of Hoffert’s delicious descriptions. The second time, I realized it’s because of Snow herself. I saw so much of myself in her, how she’s angry and worried and determined and uncertain. And I admired how she faces up to some terrifying truths and refuses to be felled by them.
Yes, the circus is thrilling. Yes, the descriptions are staggeringly cool. Yes, the plot is twisty and cool. Yes, Chayse and Cynfael are delightful anti-heroes. But Snow is the mesmerizing one. All the magical, glittering, ugly trappings fall by the wayside when I behold the girl who stands “so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon,” as Charlotte Bronte would say.
Snow stands up for herself and against those who seek to use her as a tool for their own purposes. She saves the day in the process. Not with magic or royal power or a sense of her own importance, but by standing on her own two feet and being herself. All of which makes her not just a hero, but my hero.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Kovaciny’s western fairy tale retelling novels are now available in paperback and Kindle editions. Learn more about her at her author website, rachelkovaciny.com