Some book covers grab your attention convincingly whilst others allow your eyes to glide by.
Mirror Mirror has a cover that is not highly remarkable and yet, for some reason, it persuaded me to remove it from the shelf and peruse it further. Perhaps it’s the repetition that focuses the attention and the title being subconsciously absorbed from DVD releases of the Julia Roberts film of same name. Or, and I like this idea the best, perhaps it was fairy-tale witchery at its finest.
I had never heard of Gregory Maguire, who also wrote Wicked, the book on which the blockbuster musical was based. In fact, discovering this fact put me off a little but in the spirit of fair-mindedness and objectivity, I delved into the narrative.
Maguire has taken one of the best-loved fairy-tales, “Snow White,” and spun it into a completely new tale, the elements of the original poking up to provide the supporting structure around, through, and over which Maguire has crafted his narrative.
And it is an enjoyable read. “Snow White” had all the ingredients of a great story: love, deceit, magic, good vs. evil – the whole gamut. Maguire has expanded this into the realms of the Renaissance, making Lucrezia Borgia the mistress of misery in the life of our heroine.
The tale is built around Bianca de Nevada, who lives with her father in Italy with Primavera, the maid, and Fra Ludovico, the priest assisting with her upbringing. This is all thrown into disarray with the arrival of Lucrezia and her brother, Cesare Borgia, to their homestead, the end result being that Lucrezia stays to take care of Bianca whilst Vicente, Bianca’s father is required to go on a mission to find the Tree of Knowledge. Vicente doesn’t dare refuse the Borgias and leaves his daughter in Lucrezia’s capable (though of what?!) hands.
If you know nothing about the Borgias, this book is bound to whet your appetite for finding out more about them. Notorious, brutal, sexy, powerful – they had it all. I think it was a masterstroke of Maguire’s to centre the badness around Lucrezia.
I wonder if he sat contemplating two contrasting ideas: “I would love to rework another fairytale” and “The Borgias would be a great subject for a novel”, deciding to throw them together and see, daringly, what the result would be.
A good story is the result, imaginative flair shown throughout especially in the creation of the dwarves. Their chosen names made me laugh out loud and the way they are described by Maguire make them truly his unique creations: weird but wonderful.
Of course, we all know the outcome of this story, so no surprises there, although what actually happens to Lucrezia is up for speculation with Maguire’s ending.
Mirror Mirror is a well-crafted, original story which I thought began rather hesitantly and I was concerned would be exasperatingly slow, verging on tedious. I was wrong. The pace gathered once the Borgias arrived and the threat to Bianca’s safety loomed.
Well worth a read.