Geeks Friday Read: Poison

poison coverLast month we published the second of Sarah Pinborough’s fairy tales for adults, Charm, so we thought it was high time you needed reminding just how brilliant these books are from one of our Gollancz Geeks. Kris Meic sent us this great review of Poison, the first of Sarah’s fairy tales, as part of our Geeks mailing earlier in the year, and as it turns out he has a mighty fine blog himself that you can check out here. You can also follow Kris on Twitter

You are probably aware that original forms of just about every fairy tale have significantly changed throughout the centuries. Fairy tales have, just like organisms, evolved, branching in many different directions and flavours. The latest additions in this process are three short novels (or should I call them novellas) by Sarah Pinborough, first of which is Poison.

As you can probably guess, Poison is Pinborough’s retelling of Snow White but Snow White in question is miles away from sanitized Disney version that we have been served for the last couple of decades. Poison harks back to old days and is filled with violence, sex and a whole plethora of very calculated characters – each with it’s own agenda. Sarah has used familiar setting, elements and characters to successfully build a three dimensional living and breathing kingdom which revolves around Queen who is, with each passing day, becoming more angry and ruthless. Even dwarves are brought to life in a completely new way as part of the overarching Dwarf community. I particularly liked the tiny tidbits of background information that story throws our way, like psychotic Aladdin who spends his few days of freedom indulging in torturing and killing innocents. It will be interesting to see whether he plays a significant part in future installments of Pinborough fairy tales. But the biggest surprise came at the very end, when Pinborough all of the sudden pulled something so unpredictable and unexpected that I was simply left stunned. Without further spoilers, I’ll just say that I will be eagerly awaiting next two part of the trilogy.

And here lies the biggest surprise of them all – Pinborough has somehow managed to do implausible and make over-familiar tale fresh and exciting again and if that is not an achievement of a great writer, I don’t know what is! Well done!

This review was first published on Kris’ blog,