Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

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As a fan of fairy tale retellings and of Donnelly's Step sister, I grabbed Poisoned and devoured it quickly. This is no Disney version of Snow White, but one that centres around the theme of fear. Here the wicked stepmother is truly wicked with no compassion or gentleness, afraid that her power will be taken away from her. Sophie (Snow White) is taken into the wood by the Huntsman, who does take out her heart, but it replaced with a clockwork one by one of the seven dwarfs. Sophie knows that her heart, that feels too much, may give out and goes on a quest across the kingdom to the castle of the evil King of Crows to try and regain it. She is aided by Will a young woodsman and Arno a grave robber. Her acts of kindness are repaid along the way when a little hound she has rescued, kills the snakes that are attacking her and soldiers and townspeople march to her defence.

The chapters are often very short and quick to read, which is a boon for people who might be daunted by long involved prose. The adventures that Sophie faces along the way will keep the reader glued to the page to see if she can overcome all the obstacles that the wicked Queen throws in her path, not least the poisoned apple that causes her to sleep. Fans of strong girls who are prepared to grow in power and understanding and not just rely on the handsome prince to rescue them will delight in Sophie's gradual understanding of the importance of overcoming fear and treasuring kindness.

A sneak peek of the story by Jennifer Donnelly is available.

Readers who enjoy Poisoned may like to move onto Shannon Hale's Book of a thousand days and Beauty by Robin McKinley.

Themes: Fairy tale retelling, Fear, Kindness, Strong female character.

Pat Pledger