Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino
Published Disney 2009
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
The tale of the young princess and her evil stepmother, the Wicked Queen, is widely known. Despite a few variations from telling to telling, the story remains the same–the Queen was jealous of the girl’s beauty, and this jealousy culminated in the Queen’s attempt on the sweet, naive girl’s life.
Another tale far less often spoken of is the one that explains what caused the Queen to become so contemptuously vile. Still, some have attempted to guess at the reason. Perhaps the Queen’s true nature was that of a wicked hag and her beautiful, regal appearance a disguise used to fool the King. Others claim that the Queen might have hated the girl for her resemblance to the King’s first wife. Mostly, the Queen is painted as a morally abhorrent woman who never loved another being during the course of her miserable life.
In fact, the theories about exactly what cause the Queen’s obsessive vanity and jealous rage are too numerous to catalog. This book recounts a version of the story that has remained untold until now. It is a tragic tale of love and loss, and it contains a bit of magic. It is a tale of the Wicked Queen…
It’s no stretch to say that fairy tale retellings are hot right now – from the ever popular Lunar Chronicles to Once Upon a Time, they are all over the place. But this one just might be a new favorite of mine.
Fairest of All takes place from the early life of the Wicked Queen as she first meets the King and becomes Queen, all the way to the end of Snow White’s story. The book is short, but manages to cover all this time in a really nice way. I did wish there was a little bit more during the time that we know Snow White’s story to start, but overall, it did cover so much for its short length. I love the twist that we get on the Queen (only ever referred to as ‘The Queen’). Her childhood past is really terrible and I felt for her. Although she does turn out to be evil (obviously), this book made me feel for her as a person. I felt bad for the Evil Queen – so I think this story did its job well.
I loved the writing of this book. It was intense and deep, although not so bad that I wouldn’t say it isn’t a young adult novel. I’m not sure if I would classify it as a children’s novel though, because of some intense themes. Anyway, everything felt creepy and mysterious as we developed the Queen’s history. Sometimes, everything would lighten up and the chapters would be really sweet, but then something would happen and it would somber back down again. There were multiple times reading this that I got chills from the story and how well we went into the psychology of the Evil Queen. For a seemingly unassuming book, this packs a huge punch. The writing tone was powerful and moving.
And on two fun side notes – if you can, BUY THIS BOOK. It is SO beautiful in person. I love the really soft cover and how everything is almost entirely black so you can’t see the title on the front. Plus, it has really nice chapter illustrations and the inside cover is almost as cool as the outside cover. I probably spent too much time just staring at the book. I had been looking to buy this one for a long time, but it was worth it. Also, I really liked how the story of Sleeping Beauty is alluded to. Fairytales tying in together is also another one of my favorite tropes.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this! I could have used a little extra length at the end to develop some of our favorite fairy tale scenes, but it did serve as a realistic backstory. The setting and tone was really creepy. I’m adding this to my favorite fairy tale retellings for sure!