REVIEW: First Bite by Laura Briggs and Sarah Steinbrenner

firstbiteFirst Bite: The Wicked Queen’s Tale
by Laura Briggs and Sarah Steinbrenner
Smashwords, 2011
[Goodreads]

Beauty…

Is the illusion the Queen cannot live without. It drives her to dark deeds beyond the imagination of those beneath the spell of her charms. Leaving ruined kingdoms in her wake, a dire prophecy before her–and one chance to conquer her fate.

Youth…

Is the only chance Fortulla has to escape the grim fate that awaits one branded as a servant of evil. She longs for the chance to grasp hope and happiness beyond the curse of her existence.

Innocence…

Is the child whose existence could change everything. A princess whose life is threatened by a darkness beyond her understanding; her destiny intertwined with good and evil.

First Bite reweaves the classic story of Snow White from the perspective of its diabolical villainess, one of the greatest in fairy tale lore. Told with the backdrop of magic, mystery, and centuries-old pagan lore, the story of a desperate Queen and an innocent princess is connected to a servant girl’s secret past. As the evil prophecy ripens, their fates merge in an ending only a Magic Mirror could forsee.

mythoughts

First Bite is the first book in the Dark Woods Trilogy, and, as you can most likely tell from the cover, tells the story of Snow White from her stepmother’s point of view. But it was actually more than that, and, for a freebie from Amazon (now priced only at $.99, as are the other two books in the series), was really quite enjoyable.

This story is actually told from several points of view, which change throughout the book as more characters are introduced. The majority of the book is told via Fortulla, a girl who ends up being the gardener for the Queen’s orchards, but had other parts to play as well. We also get the obligatory chapters from the Queen herself (hence the title), and also the huntsman, who has his own story. There’s even a couple of chapter’s from Snow White’s pov, as well as a few other characters interspersed. While the changing viewpoints could get confusing, it’s actually done really well here.

This book gives readers a good look at the Queen’s backstory, which was rather fascinating but also quite dark. See, she’s the devil’s servant, and in order to keep her looks (and get various kings/other royalty to marry her), she has to drink the blood of young maidens. The rituals that she uses are pretty spelled out and ghastly, as are her past histories, which date back to ancient Greece/Rome/Egypt, as well as a bout as a Celtic “goddess”. Between her story, the huntsman’s, and Fortulla, this book was literally brimming with fantastic stories. There were times I actually felt sympathetic for the Queen, who is simply trying to prolong her life in order to avoid eternity with the Devil, but then again, she’s the one who entered into the bargain in the first place, which is why my sympathy kept flipping on and off throughout. Plus she’s just really quite heartless; it’s hard to believe that someone could actually be as cruel as she is.

My one little quibble was that the authors use a rather strange way of writing sentences, oftentimes putting periods where they should have just inserted commas, which resulted in a lot of run-on sentences/incomplete sentences and some rather poor dialogue punctuation. It was – at times – rather distracting as well, but the strength of the tale itself helped me overlook it. A really good editor, however, wouldn’t go amiss!

The ending that I was hoping for did indeed work out, including a “happily-ever-after”, which I love. I found this to be a really fabulous retelling of a story everyone knows, with intriguing “surprise” narrators and a lot of blending of fairy tale with actual history. All in all, this was really well done, and I would recommend it to any fan of fairy tales, and the story of Snow White in particular.

4stars

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