Addition to this publisher’s series of rewritten/reinterpreted fairy tales, from British fantasist Lee (Saint Fire, 1999, etc.), with series editor Terri Windling providing a substantial, scholarly introduction. This time, Snow White gets a makeover, as Lee blends elements from the tale’s historical variants, mythology, the Brothers Grimm, and Walt Disney. Somewhere in eastern Europe, the barbarian conqueror Draco rapes Princess Arpazia after sacking her city. Later, he repents somewhat and marries her, allowing her to keep her magic mirror. Utterly withdrawn, Arpazia cares nothing save to gaze into the mirror and be reassured of her flawless, unmatched beauty; she has only the vaguest recollection of giving birth to a clone-like daughter, whom Draco names Candacis but everybody knows as Coira. Later, Arpazia, ignored by Draco, emerges from her trance to fall in love with Orion, the old religion’s woodland king. But when Arpazia aborts Orion’s child, Orion vanishes, and Arpazia embarks on a series of tawdry affairs. In the mirror, though, she discerns a rival, and, not recognizing Coira, arranges for her abduction. Later, Coira becomes the mistress of a band of dwarves toiling in the mines of King Hadz . . . . And so forth.
What with the illogical plot and largely unsympathetic characters, even Lee’s stylish prose can’t breathe new vitality into the familiar old tale.