I’m usually a huge fan of fairy tale retellings, but this version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves left me underwhelmed. The characters lack depth and realism, and the entire tale is a little too bland for my taste.
The most surprising thing about The Fairest Beauty is that although it’s certainly recognizable as a Snow White story, many of the elements of the original tale are conspicuously absent. Magic has no presence at all in Dickerson’s story, meaning there’s no magic mirror, no enchanted kiss, etc.
Instead, Dickerson seems to have replaced all fairy tale elements with a hearty helping of religion. There’s a lot of prayer, Scripture reading, and holy contemplation. The protagonist, Sophie, treasures a scrap of her family’s Bible as her most prized possession, and her idea of fun is reciting parables from the New Testament.
Sophie is the main reason I wasn’t wild about The Fairest Beauty. She’s a lovely girl, inside and out, but her constant sweetness gets to be kind of grating after a while. No matter what the situation, Sophie responds with kindness and aplomb. Even when her stepmother regularly throws her in the dungeon, withholds food, and heaps chores upon her, Sophie bears all of the humiliation and injustice heaped upon her with patience and grace. It’s just too much – a little sweetness is good, but a lot will give you a stomach ache. And cavities.
Sophie does have some redeeming qualities. She can occasionally be feisty, and she has no problem taking care of herself. It also helps that she’s just as susceptible to a cute and dashing hero as the rest of us, even if she does resist temptation better than I might.
Said cute and dashing hero, Gabe, didn’t completely wow me at first, but he eventually grew on me. He initially comes across as immature and dimwitted, but he does grow up over the course of the story.
I’m always happy to have another fairy tale retelling under my belt, but I don’t see myself rereading The Fairest Beauty. I need more entertaining, less squeaky-clean.