Fun fact: my dad considered naming me Snow White. Now, but to be fair, I was born on the winter solstice, and that was especially special snowflake because most years it’s on December 21, but on my year winter came a day late to coincide with my spawning, and I actually do have very black hair and naturally very snowy skin, and who am I kidding, that was still a really really bad idea. Thanks, Mom! (If I recall, her reason for shutting that Shinola down was “I don’t want my daughter to open the door for random strangers.”)
I mention that embarrassing story not just because STITCHING SNOW by R.C. Lewis happens to be a sci-fi retelling of Snow White. Like me, Princess Snow was born on the winter solstice. But my father didn’t resort to genetic engineering to make a kitschy symbolic name even more apt, and that’s not even the worst King Matthias, who in this tale might be even more diabolical than the evil stepmother, does. Also, I am nowhere near as badass as the Snow White in this book.
Here’s the rundown: the ice planet Thanda, Essie lives a hardscrabble existence, surviving by coding drones for the local mines and earning spare cash–and respect–defeating men twice her size in cage fighting. It’s not an easy life, especially for a solitary teenage girl surrounded by brutish, drunken men. But Essie gets by–that is, until a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands his spaceship. Essie soon finds herself pulled back into the even more dangerous world she ran away from: that of her homeworld, Windsong, where she was once Princess Snow until her tyrannical stepmother Queen Olivia tried to have her assassinated.
Abbey Lee Kershaw as Essie/Princess Snow and Masonobu Ando as Dane
It’s a cool story! The plotting is tight, and the world-building is great. When you see ‘sci-fi fairytales’, the immediate association is probably The Lunar Chronicles, which happens to be my favorite YA series. But besides the basic concept, the books are very different. Stitching Snow is very much its own unique bent, with a grittier futuristic vibe than Marissa Meyer’s fanciful space opera. The Rogue One to Cinder‘s Star Wars, if you will.
But as memorable as the harsh galaxy and grueling action is, what really makes the story stand out are the characters. On a surface level, it’s admittedly a lot of fun to see a cage-fighting, robot-coding (STEMinism!) Snow White. Essie is more than that, though. Her toughness and edge feel authentic because she’s a real character and not just a figure of wish fulfillment. Like Imperator Furiosa, she’s a badass but ultimately resonates for her complexity. And the romance in this novel, while not the core of the story, is really, really satisfying. Since the original fairy tale contains one of the more distressingly literal examples of women as mere objects for male desire, the genuine respect and maturity the leading man displays is all the more welcome.
There’s one more element I feel obligated to discuss, but can’t without giving too much away. Let’s just say that one of the more disturbing elements of the novel has real weight to it, instead of feeling like “edgy” window dressing. And that’s cool.
Full disclosure: I’m especially excited to share this book because, as I’ve mentioned, thanks to awesome person Justina Ireland’s awesome Writing in the Margins, I’m currently doing a mentorship program with a published author. My mentor happens to be R.C. Lewis! As soon as we were paired up, I realized I recognized her book, and after reading the synopsis I immediately ordered both her books from Amazon. I have so many good things to say about R.C. and how incredible this whole thing has been, but honestly, even if I weren’t already inclined to like this, I’d still give this book an enthusiastic recommendation.