Two years ago I went on a somewhat masochistic adventure trying to read 100 SPFBO books and leave reviews for all of them. I succeeded, but boy was that challenging. One of the books I read was the Snow White Files by Sonya M. Black. I remember that I enjoyed it despite the fact that I hadn’t dipped my toes into fairytale retellings all that much. I was struck by how something so familiar could be reimagined to provide a fun fresh experience with it. When I saw the author’s name pop up this time around I got excited since I was already familiar with her writing style and knew it was something I may click with. That said, this is not a fairytale retelling, this is something entirely different and I definitely enjoyed it.
This opens with a witch trial scene for the main character, Ris, who has been accused by an Inquisitor of casting spells. She’s the town healer and although that requires some magic, that’s not the kind of thing that would typically get someone branded as a witch. The setting resembles the 1800’s from Earth, there are trains, pocket watches, gas lamps lining the streets, witch trials etc. Ris is sentenced to death and gets thrown in prison. She was able to escape with the help of her friends, but she still had to deal with the Inquisitor’s men hot on her heels. To make matters worse, demons have also located her and are intent on killing her. She may not be a witch but she has a secret that if it got out, it could mean the end of the world.
This story was told in both the first person and the third person depending on which POV you’re on. Ris is the only first-person viewpoint, the other POV’s are all in the third person. I found this a little awkward at first, but after a few character rotations I adjusted to it. It definitely brought Ris to the forefront as the main character and made her stand out. However, because of that, I think I got to know Ris much more than I did some of the other characters which felt a bit unbalanced. I felt like Ris was very fleshed out and felt like her own person, but sometimes Michel, Bran, and Aeron were a little too similar and I’d find myself forgetting for a second which character I was reading.
The magic system in this isn’t exactly a hard defined magic system like a Sanderson book, but it definitely has different classes of magic with distinct characteristics and rules to them. There’s an element of music to the magic where one of the character’s magic sounds like violins, while another sounds like brass instruments. They are also broken up into elemental classes, with earth magic, water magic, fire magic, and air magic all having different properties, strengths, and weaknesses. These magics can be used to counter each other or enhance one another, but it’s said that no one can wield more than one kind of magic. “Darkness” can also taint someone’s magic, turning it red and out of tune. This book has heavy overtones of good vs evil, light vs darkness. One of the villains in this is literally called Darkness and it’s actively looking for Ris. There’s a lot going on as far as fantasy elements – there are demons capable of possessing human hosts, long-lived humans over 500 years old, paladins, knights, secretive councils, elemental magic, shapeshifters, gods and goddesses etc.
The pacing for this was super quick, I was able to read this within a day. The style is more straight forward rather than flowery which allows for quick easy reading. It’s not a super long book either, there’s not a lot of “fat” that I would have cut to keep things more tightly plotted which is something I found myself thinking with some other finalists. It was well edited and well put together with a professional-looking cover that grabs the eye. I’d recommend this for people who like multi povs, set in the Victorian era, lots of magic, light vs dark/good vs evil, and easy quick reads.
- Plot: 10/15
- Characters: 11.5/15
- World-Building: 12.5/15
- Writing: 11.5/15
- Pacing: 12/15
- Originality: 10/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 6.5/10
Final Score: 74/100 or 7.4/10 for SPFBO