A tie-in novel for ABC’s Once Upon a Time explores an incident in the adolescence of Regina, the future Evil Queen from Snow White.
Retellings exploring the motivations of fairy tales’ wicked stepmothers and villainous women are a staple of feminist fantasy for young readers. Complicating any tie-in for Once Upon a Time is the reality that the television drama is, itself, a participant in this tradition of revisionist storytelling. Like most of the primarily female Disney villains who populate the series, Regina has a well-developed back story exploring her fall from grace. Just a few years before the events which will form Regina into Snow White’s enemy, 16-year-old Regina befriends new neighbor Claire. Claire’s friendship is Regina’s sole respite from her abusive, social-climbing mother, though Regina has aspirations: perhaps one day she will learn magic, and perhaps her attractive painting teacher will return her love. Of course, for one destined to become the Evil Queen, it can never be that easy; there will always be betrayal. The white characters in this fairy-tale blend struggle unsuccessfully to do good against the machinations of the powerful. Despite one clash with the show’s canon, all in all it’s a fairly successful attempt at finding a niche in a well-plumbed character history.
Reasonably enjoyable as a tie-in, this can also stand alone, although the stumbling-toward-darkness conclusion might seem odd to readers who don’t know Regina’s ultimate destiny. (Fantasy. 12-16)