Monday, June 11, 2012

Snow, Blood, and Envy by Jean Haus

Title: Snow, Blood, and Envy
Author: Jean Haus
Length: 4381 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars
The Plot

Nivea thinks that the worst thing that will happen to her when her wealthy father gets remarried is that she will have to have some awkward conversations with a woman trying to replace her mother. But her new stepmother Mali seems to want to control every aspect of her life – where she goes, who she talks to, what she wears, and what she eats. But when her new driver tries to drug her instead of taking her to school, Nivi realizes that Mali wants more than just to turn her into the perfect society daughter – she wants to take her life.

The Good

I enjoy a good retelling of a fairy tale, and Snow, Blood, and Envy is a compelling modern-day version of Snow White. Purely coincidentally, as I write this I have just gotten back from seeing Snow White and the Huntsman, and I have to say that I preferred this book to the movie. The dialogue was much better written, and Nivi has more than one facial expression. The evil stepmothers in the two versions were similar in that they were both obsessed with beauty and youth that they stole from other girls, but other than that they didn’t have much in common.

The book was fast-paced, and it was easy to get caught up in the action. I really felt for Nivi in the parts where she was alone in Chinatown and no one would believe her stories about her stepmother. Her situation was made so much worse by the fact that people dismissed the threats to her person as things she made up or imagined.

The Bad

My biggest problem with Snow, Blood, and Envy was that it got a little repetitive. It went on a cycle: Nivi gets caught, Nivi escapes, Nivi runs and hides, then she gets caught again. Different things happened in these cases, and most of them were interesting, but by the third or fourth iteration, you kind of wanted the story to get on already.

Most of the chapters were labeled “Snow,” meaning they were from Nivi’s point of view. There were also a few chapters labeled “Envy,” which were this odd third person point of view about Mali. She wasn’t referred to by name, presumably to add mystery to the villain, but since it was pretty obvious who the villain was, these mostly just came off as strange. I think the information in them was necessary, but the presentation could have been clearer. Plus, there were “Snow” chapters and “Envy” chapters but no “Blood” chapters, which made my OCD unhappy.

I rarely mention the grammar in my reviews, but I am going to note it here because it actually was one of the main things that took away from my complete love of the book. In what was otherwise a well-written story, the occasional misplaced modifier or missing comma detracted from the flow and had me cringing instead of enjoying the story. (Though I also must comment that I wholeheartedly approve of the serial comma being included in the title, as I am a firm believer in it.)

The Romance

The promotional description of this book includes the line “she learns the hero—though still hot—isn’t always charming.” I confess that this made me nervous that the love interest was going to be a problem in the story. After reading the book, I must admit that I am wrong and that I am adding Jai to my list of best boyfriends of my blog books list.

When we first meet Jai, we establish that he is half Asian and so hot that Nivi is interested in him despite her post-mother’s-death emotionless stupor. Then we go to Chinatown with him, we learn that he is on his own and has taken in some younger kids who have nowhere else to go. Sometimes he has to do ignoble things to help his wards survive, but he tries to live by a code of honor as much as he can. So, really, there is nothing not to like.

Will I read more?

I believe this is a stand-alone novel, which is for the best, since the whole point of a fairy tale is that they end happily ever after. If there’s a sequel, something’s gone wrong there. However, as I look on Amazon, I see that Jean Haus has other books that seem to be retellings of other fairy tales. I found Snow, Blood, and Envy to be an enjoyable enough read that I will probably check out some of the others.

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