Blanche is in grieving for her father, the recently deceased King of Eliam, when her stepmother Alida begins to make moves to secure the throne for herself. Sixteen, afraid, and practically alone, Blanche can do nothing to resist Alida. Instead, she must be rescued and ferreted away by her childhood friend, Alexander. As the royal huntsman, Alexander is able to help Blanche–Snow as he calls her–run away into the forest. There, in relative safety, Snow must contemplate what her next step will be. What does she owe to the people of Eliam? What does she owe her father’s memory?
What is A Dream of Ebony and White about?
As the fourth installment of Cellier’s Beyond the Four Kingdoms series, this book picks up much the way the previous two has with one of the princesses from the Princess Tourney featured in book one. Blanche, affectionately known as Snow by her friends and family, is the beautiful only daughter of the King of Eliam who has just passed away. Deep in mourning, she is unable to resist her stepmother’s efforts to take over the kingdom and unwilling to save herself from the abuse that this heaps upon her shoulders. That is, until her childhood friend Alexander–a royal huntsman–takes it upon himself to save her from her stepmother’s schemes. Snow must now find her strength and start a coup to overthrow her stepmother.
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale Retelling
Unsurprisingly as this whole series is this genre, we’ve got another YA fantasy retelling on our hands! As should be obvious, this book is based on the Snow White fairy tale.
Tropes: Strong Independent Snow White
Something I’ve noticed in recent retellings of the tale: Snow White has to be given a lot of extra skills. She can’t just be kind and good natured, she also now has to learn all sorts of skills not necessary to being queen in order to reassert her dominance and gain loyalty from unusual sources. This is present in this telling, as well, as Snow White spends a surprising amount of time exploring the forest surrounding her home.
I won’t lie, the way this retelling unfolds is almost identical to all of the more recent retellings I’ve encountered. It would take more effort than I’m willing to put in to track down where this trend started, but the idea that Snow White with the help of a loyal huntsman and the seven people she bands with taking down the stepmother Queen in a coup? It’s starting to get very familiar…
Despite some of her insecurities, I felt Blanche was a genuinely interesting and well rounded character. She openly acknowledges when she has gaps in her knowledge or limitations due to her upbringing, and chooses either to seek help in improving her skills or delegate the tasks at hand to those actually trained to do them. She has a lot of strong leadership qualities which the other characters don’t feel the need to point out to her. This lends a lot of realism to her desire to actually become queen, because she clearly would be an effective and fair ruler. I also appreciated that since this isn’t constantly pointed out to her to overrule her insecurities, the book does “show don’t tell” very well in regards to her character. I also have to admit that this book is well served by spending less time ruminating on the events of the first book than some of the previous ones have. Blanche acknowledges the tourney and its impact on her life only when necessary, since she’s had to deal with so much more since it happened.
I was honestly surprised and a little less than impressed with how little time is spent in the forest. For most versions of Snow White, the period spent with the dwarves is a significant chunk of the story for one reason or another. When Snow first arrives at the cottage in the forest, there seem to be lots of reasons (character development based mostly) for her to stay a while but she leaves not too long afterwards, and the cottage inhabitants are left out of much of the story from that point on. The relationships between Snow and the dwarves (or stand ins for the dwarves) is usually one of the most interesting in the story, and I was disappointed to see it take such a backseat in this retelling.
I felt that Alida, the stepmother, was a bit one dimensional for my taste. While the book establishes that Alida was introduced to Snow’s life very early on and served as an emotionally abusive and ignorant ruler, there was a lot of telling there and not a lot of showing. The few interactions we do get with Alida are comical in their extreme displays of evil. Personally, I need a bit more convincing to totally hate the evil stepmother.
Both for Cellier’s books and Snow White retellings as a whole, this was a surprisingly good read! While I’ve enjoyed Cellier and fairy tale retellings alike for a mindless read, this was the first of either that I really engaged with as I read. Normally I don’t connect with Snow White as a character, but Blanche was an enjoyable protagonist with a surprising personality. The romance was highly predictable, but I was able to enjoy it to an extent. I do wish a bit more time had been spent with the stand ins for the seven dwarves, who were very much shunted to the side shortly after they made their appearance, but I also enjoyed the direction Cellier decided to take with them. Despite tying into the series as it should, I felt that this book was really the most stand alone installment and I enjoyed it all the more for that aspect.