Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente


Goodreads: Six-Gun Snow White
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2013


Once upon a time a silver baron forced a Crow woman to marry him and bear him a daughter.  But that daughter’s skin betrayed her heritage and when her mother died, her stepmother in cruelty called her Snow White–a constant reminder of the type of beauty and the kind of life she can never have.  Snow White , however, can pull a trigger faster than any man in the West, and she hopes that will be enough for her to take her freedom.


Catherynne Valente, author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, must have once visited Fairyland herself.  Her prose is an enchantment  inviting readers into a world where reality and magic blend together, enticing them always to journey farther in until it’s too late–the story has grasped hold of their hearts and there is no going back.  She weaves yet another masterful spell in Six-Gun Snow White, utterly transforming the tale into something new and beautiful, but also unbearably dark.

A dark edge to her fairy tales may in fact be one of Valente’s trademarks.  Even in her middle-grade series she introduces twisted souls and the hard loss of Faerie to those who have spent their allotted time. Her adult novels go even farther, however, filling the stories with so much pain that one sometimes wonders if there is any magic left at all.  I often suspect that it is Valente’s prose more than her content that provides the magic–her words have a sense of rightness to them, whether they are sharp-edged and beautiful or even humorous.  For instance, one of my favorite quotes from this book reads, “Mr. H traveled to the Montana Territory on a horse so new and fine her tail squeaked.”  But always the darkness lurks beneath and I’m not always sure that this is my kind of fairy tale.

Darkness, of course, has always been a part of Faerie.  I believe in Valente’s worlds while she is spinning her tale.  But Deathless and Six-Gun Snow White both lost me at the end, where the story drops off into that lukewarm despair characteristic of many a piece of literary fiction.  The characters just continue on in resignation.  Fairy tales, it seems to me, should end with a bang, either in hope or despair.  This vague continuance of misery just doesn’t feel right.

Still, Valente’s prose draws me in, as so her richly developed worlds.  I love in particular how she matches her prose to these worlds.  Not many authors experiment so freely with their style and it’s always a treat to see how Valente will challenge herself next.  Even though her endings disappoint me, I’m ready to go with her on a new adventure at any time.

*This post is participating in Witch Week at The Emerald City!

Krysta 64

10 thoughts on “Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

  1. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says:

    Excellent review — you bring out Valente’s strengths and weaknesses very well. This doesn’t sound like one for me but I do appreciate seeing writers who are constantly trying new things in their work, rather than sticking to a successful formula. Thank you for participating in Witch Week!


    • Krysta says:

      I have a soft spot for fairytale retellings with settings that aren’t just another generic fantasy world, so, despite my dislike of the ending, I really enjoyed this piece. Valente really makes me believe in her worlds.


  2. Laura says:

    I also have developed a fondness for retellings. They are what I read for fun between books I review.
    I love the creativity and individuality authors bring to beloved stories.


    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it’s so fun to see how each author transforms a well-known tale! I suppose each story written is a retelling in a way, but there’s something fascinating about the transparency of that process with retold fairy tales.


  3. DoingDewey says:

    I think I’ll probably continue to pass on Valente’s work because they do sound to dark and depressing to me. I’m sorry to pass on her prose though! It sounds beautiful 🙂


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