Triquetra by Kirstyn McDermott
Published by Tor Books, 2018
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This ‘what if’ sequel to Snow White embraces the dark heart of true Grimm fairy tales. At the end of the original, our heroine marries her handsome rescuer whilst her wicked stepmother is condemned to death, forced to dance in red-hot iron slippers until she collapses. Triquetra picks up several years later. The stepmother, alive but greatly weakened by her ordeal, has been locked away by Snow White, who visits her once a month so the two may share an enchanted apple, and exchange deliciously sinister death threats. With the Prince not the hero he first seemed, and both the stepmother and the mirror suggesting that Snow White’s young daughter is now the one at risk, Snow White must decide who or what to trust.
The atmosphere in this was fantastic. It has an air of the quietly off-kilter, perfectly suited to the timeless magic and gothic undertone of fairy tales. McDermott’s prose is lovely, adding a sumptuous flair without ever feeling overdone. The sense of paranoia and brewing madness is also excellent, with Snow White having to live with the trauma of what she went through, the guilt of her own actions (torturing the wicked stepmother), fear for her young daughter, and doubt about her husband (kissing the corpse of a young girl he found in the woods doesn’t seem so great when you reflect on it, after all…).
With the mirror exploiting everyone’s deepest desires and insecurities to play them against each other, and the stepmother seeming to offer an olive branch to help Snow White protect her daughter from a proposed threat, the whole thing becomes a mind game of trust and nerve. The pervasive proclivity for selfishness within us all goes head-to-head with a warped sense of sisterhood, and I felt genuinely tense right up until the final sentence, never sure if and when a twist may reveal itself.
For this to tell a gripping story that stands on its own as an unsettling, fantastical fairy tale, whilst also forcing us to re-evaluate everything we thought we knew about the original Snow White, is quite the achievement, especially within the brief scope of a seemingly unassuming novella. I will certainly be looking out for more from McDermott, and from Tor’s oft-dark fantasy novella series.
Triquetra can be purchased for Kindle from your usual retailer, or read for free online by clicking here.