Poison by Sarah Pinborough book review

Fairytale subversion Poison by horror queen Sarah Pinborough is out 18 April 2013

Fairy tales are so on trend right now; big-screen adaptations of popular classics are filling cinemas and reuniting audiences with their childhood memories as well as encouraging a whole new army of fans. Jeremy Renner has made Hansel And Gretel sexy, Jack The Giant Slayer is no longer just a village pantomime and Snow White has morphed from pitiful victim to feisty ass kicker.

So meet the latest in a succession of Snow White reincarnations in Sarah Pinborough’s Poison, the first in a new trilogy of interwoven fairytales retold with the cynical realism of the wry anarchist.

We are all familiar with the legendary tale of Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, and there are thankfully no unwelcome character inclusions or omissions in Poison. In fact, Pinborough sticks quite religiously to the original story, focussing initially on the ‘wicked’ queen, Lilith, and her unhappy marriage to Snow’s over-indulgent father.

Surprisingly, it is easy to empathise with Lilith when the sickeningly perfect Princess Snow White is around, flaunting her popularity and unbearable sweetness. It is almost a disappointment that Pinborough does not meddle with the legend and actually warrants the love-struck Huntsman with a little more backbone.

True to the life of a miner, the seven dwarves are not the happy go lucky, whistle-while-you-work comedic characters. Years of working underground has left them with lung damage, missing limbs and a real reason to be Grumpy. They are a fiercely loyal and honourable race, devastated to discover they were unable to protect their beloved Snow White from the evil old crone with the juicy red apple.

So far, so familiar, yet this ‘mirror, mirror on the wall’ leads you down what seems a recognizable and well-trodden path only to draw you into a much deeper, darker fairy tale world where handsome princes are literally too good to be true and cute furry animals do not help you get dressed in the mornings!