Is it fair to expect a masterpiece when Gaiman and Riddell work together? Probably.
The two men have collaborated on a number of books published in the U.K., to great success. The illustrations in Fortunately, the Milk are a marvel of draftsmanship, and Coraline and The Graveyard Book are considered classics. Other artists illustrated the books in the U.S., quite beautifully, but the British editions are objects of envy for many fans. This new collaboration is a spectacular art object. Almost every page is decorated with gold leaf. Even the page numbers have gold filigree. The story combines two fairy tales, and it contains two startling ideas. Snow White, after years in a sleeping spell, might not be affected by the enchantment placed on Sleeping Beauty. And, more important, after her adventures in the woods, Snow White might find sitting on a throne as dull as lying in a glass coffin. The villainess, unfortunately, distracts from those ideas. She’s just another sorceress in a fantasy book, one in a long line of evildoers who want youth and power—but this is a fairy tale, after all. The gorgeous, art nouveau–inspired black-and-white drawings, many of which seem to consciously echo such divergent talents as Arthur Rackham and Robert Lawson, however, are magnificent, and a few sentences describing sleepwalkers who speak in unison may haunt readers for years.
If this book isn’t quite a masterpiece, it’s certainly a treasure, and that’s more than enough. (Fairy tale. 11-18)