I’m a fan of Patricia C. Wrede’s work, having become one when I read Sorcery and Cecelia, which was co-written with Caroline Stevermer. The Enchanted Forest series is probably her best work written by herself, so I had high hopes for this novel when I bought it. I didn’t end up as in love with the book as I had hoped. Wrede does present a good retelling of the original story, which itself is not a fairy tale that can easily be turned into a story that makes sense. But it was a difficult book to get through, mostly because of the dialogue. The dialogue sounded authentic, right down to sentence structure, but it was mismatched with the description that was written in a more modern language. It was in a style different enough to be noticeable when two characters have finished a long conversation in Elizabethan language, and then large paragraphs of relatively modern description follow. The constant switching of styles was distracting and hard to keep up with, causing the dialogue to be frustrating at times. On top of that, there often seemed to be infodumps in certain places, where we were told things happened and characters did such and such, just so we could get on to the next plot point. There seemed to be a few too many villains as well. We have three villains in Faerie, who in turn are using the two villains in the mortal world, then at one point a villager named Joan Brewes becomes a slight villain. I don’t honestly believe Joan was needed. She didn’t feel like a natural part of the story, except to fan the flames concerning the Widow Arden and her daughters witchcraft. That was all she was, really; a plot point, a character existing solely to get things moving to the next plot point. I wasn’t pleased how she was portrayed as a promiscuous woman, either; everything she does is to get some man into her bed, and the subtext I was finding was that only bad women are sexual. She did things that were morally wrong, yes, but I still wasn’t happy with her character much. The three villains in Faerie at least served some purpose, though they weren’t exactly well written either. Madini, a lady in waiting for the Faerie Queen, is your standard bad guy. She smirks evilly, smiles cruelly, and denigrates her cohorts, ensuring that they’ll later betray her. And they do indeed betray her later in the story. Their motive was clear--they wanted to separate Faerie from the mortal world because they hate mortals--but other than that they didn’t feel like actual characters, not like the main five did. Like Joan they were there simply to serve a purpose and add more danger to the story, with varying success. The two human villains, John Dee and Ned Kelly, were at least better written than Madini and her minions. Dee is somewhat sympathetic, having more of a moral code than Kelly, and I found myself actually kind of hoping he wouldn’t die in the end. Kelly is less sympathetic in his greed and lust for power, but somehow he’s still somewhat likable. He and Dee have an interesting dynamic and relationship, and at times it was more fun to read about them than it was Blanche and Rosamund. They were better villains than the three Faerie characters, at least. The romance, at least, is better written than the rest of the story. Wrede allows the characters to interact and we see why they would be good for each other--though it felt like she neglected Blanche and Hugh at times in favor of John and Rosamund. Though, with Hugh unable to speak for some of the novel and other things having to happen, it’s understandable if still a bit annoying. It truly did feel out of the blue when Hugh asked his mother for Blanche’s hand in marriage at the end of the novel, because we’d seen so little of them up until that point, even though you know they’re going to end up married to each other. Perhaps it’s just an extension of the characters themselves, though; John and Rosamund are the more up front, outgoing personalities, so maybe it was a stylistic choice to have their romance more looked at than Blanche and Hugh’s. Blanche and Hugh are the quieter, more introverted of the siblings, and their romance is likewise slow and not paid much attention to save for a few throwaway descriptions. As for the ending, I was left unsatisfied with it. There was too much going on all at once and it seemed like Wrede didn’t quite know how to pull it all together cohesively. We have Dee and Kelly confronting the Widow Arden, Blanche, Rosamund and John as they try another spell to free Hugh of his enchantment; they were followed by a random character who was sent to investigate the rumors of witchcraft in the town, and he could have been completely removed from the story without hurting it one bit; then Madini shows up, and there’s a whole lot of talking for an ending. Kelly makes threats, Dee tries to lure him away as yelling at women is not a favored hobby of his. After they are scared away by Hugh, who shows up as a bear, Madini trades snipes with the family and does absolutely nothing except make vague remarks and threats. The good guys all talk in front of her about what they should do before she finally leaves, and with Hugh transformed back into a person, they go back to Faerie to talk to the Queen. The Faerie Queen allows the Widow Arden and her daughters to travel between Faerie and the mortal world whenever they wish, for saving her sons. She casts John out as a mortal, but then extends the same offer to him. She allows Blanche and Rosamund to marry her sons, and it’s said at the end that they all lived in Faerie for the rest of their lives. But what happens after that? Madini could not have been the only fairy who had a dislike of humans; surely someone else would have made a fuss over the Queen allowing mortals to marry into the throne. It’s said that no one would dare go against the Queen, but obviously Madini did, and other fairy creatures dislike mortals as well. Were there not some rumblings of dissent in Faerie because of this? It didn’t seem to be of any consequence that two mortal girls were joining the royal family when it should have been. Snow White and Rose Red isn’t a horrible read, but it’s not great either. You can definitely tell it’s one of Wrede’s first works, and it’s not as polished as her later novels. There’s simply too much going on in the story; too many villains and minor villains that serve no real purpose except to be evil and lead the plot along. I know Wrede wanted to accurately portray the atmosphere of the 1580s by adding in the witch hunter, but he ultimately served no purpose except to further clog up the ending with unneeded details. In everything else Wrede portrays a 1580s England beautifully, down to the dialogue and the setting descriptions. Blanche and Rosamund are okay leading ladies, though their personalities are a little one dimensional. I found myself liking the human villains and the Widow Arden more than the main four characters. It’s not horrible, it’s not great; it’s very much so-so. Stick with Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series or Sorcery and Cecelia if you want to see her at her best.