This book is a retelling of Snow White, combined with Lee's take on the Persephone/ Demeter Greek myth and conflicts between Christianity and Paganism. It's part of The Fairy Tale Series created by Terri Windling.
Perhaps I should add that I have a huge bias in favor of Windling and her essay introduction to the book alone made it worth picking up. Be that as it may, by the end of this book, I wasn't going to recommend it to many people. And worse, I was depressed for several hours until I had some coffee and the sun came out.
The first line reads, "Once upon a time, in winter, there was a mirror."
I read that at about nine thirty at night, thinking to myself, "I just want to see how it starts."
About two hours and no less than one hundred pages later, I realized--with great irritation at the inconvenience--I had to go to bed.
The novel is broken up into three Books, and I found the first book absolutely fantastic. It was hauntingly and lyrically written. The images were gorgeous. There was an incredible magic and rhythm to Lee's use of the archetypal Snow White colors of black, white, and red. The "evil" queen of the tale was heartbreaking and real. I loved it.
But then it starts to get tangled up in itself and the myths it's playing with. I had read other reviews that complained of this, and dismissed them, thinking they were probably written by people who hadn't taken the time to appreciate the interplay of myth. In the end, I felt the same way. It just became jumbled with too many layers that didn't seem to enrich each other or enlighten the characters in any way.
The story is, at its heart, the tale of a mother and daughter. Both women are damaged but unfortunately both suffer from inertia and can't seem to help themselves--or even care to try--until they fall in love with a man. I found this frustrating since most of the novel seems to criticize the way men treat women, only valuing them for their beauty and their use as sexual objects. Lee seemed to be suggesting that both women were irrevocably broken because they had no relationship with their mothers. That would be fine, however, I was disappointed that their were no other positive relationships between women. To be honest, there are almost no positive relationships between anyone.
I would recommend reading the first section of this book. I can't recommend the rest. I will say that this novel made me want to read Lee's other work. I kept feeling that short stories or connected novellas would have been a better format for her writing and for this story. She's still a writer to explore and admire.