Title: Dark Shimmer
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Donna Jo Napoli is a titan in the fantasy fiction industry--I've previously read several of both her fantasy and historical fiction works, so when I saw Dark Shimmer, beckoning to me from a high shelf in my local library, I knew that I had to take it home with me. Plus, that cover! Would ya just look at it? I was immediately enchanted, and I was so excited to read it. Plus, it's a fairy tale retelling--yay! I'm such a sucker for any kind of retelling, but most especially fairy tales.
Though personally I'm not a big fan of Snow White, because it freaked me out when I was a kid, (I mean, come on, evil stepmother trying to kill her young stepdaughter over beauty? Yikes!) I was really excited when I saw Dark Shimmer, because not only was it a retelling, it was also set in medieval Italy! Bonus points for actually having historical accuracy!
Dolce is a monster, a freak, unloved by all on her home island of Torcello, except her mother. In a land full of dwarves, she is a monstrosity, a princess living in an isolated kingdom. She has no friends, and so she turns to her trade, mirror-making, for comfort. But when her beloved mother perishes, she discovers that love may not be so far away after all. She marries, and for a while, lives happily with her family. That is, until she begins to lose her mind in pursuit of being the fairest of them all...
Where do I begin with this book? First of all, I loved the setting. I liked that Napoli took a fantastic concept and rooted it in a real place--it really helped me imagine the book better, if that makes any sense. The book's pacing was absolutely breakneck--I was so sucked into Dolce's story that I literally had to make myself stop in the middle of the night so I'd have more to read the next day. Napoli's writing, lush and dark and beautiful, was hypnotic and often frightening, but told in such a way I couldn't look away from it.
And then, of course, there's the adaption of the fairy tale itself: Through Dolce, we see the vengeful, spiteful stepmother who stops at nothing to be the most beautiful of them all. But at the same time, I couldn't hate her--my heart broke for her. It was so painful for me to watch Dolce's progression into madness, her love for her husband and stepdaughter twisted beyond recognition. As the novel went on, I was torn between pity and anger. This book was so painful and heartbreaking.
Simply put, whether you've read any of Napoli's work before or not, Dark Shimmer is a fitting, bloody homage to its inspiration, the fairy tale Snow White--I loved every moment of it, from beginning to end. Next on deck: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman!