Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen - Serena Valentino I went into this book expecting a light-hearted tale written for elementary school children. And for the first half, it seemed like that was how the rest of the tale would be told. To my great surprise, the Wicked Queen becomes very wicked and the tale is no longer appropriate for elementary children (in my opinion at least). It takes a... wicked turn. I've honestly never been the biggest fan of the Snow White fairy tale. But Fairest of All made it a whole lot more enjoyable.

The Queen starts out with just about zero confidence and completely surprised that the King (Snow White's father) could love her and think she is beautiful. Her life is changing and for the first time, she find herself happy. And then the mirror appears.... She can instantly feel the evil in the mirror, even though she doesn't know what exactly it is about the item, that makes her so uncomfortable and scared. But she ignores it for a long time and (throughout the book) actually gets rid of it not three but four times. One way or another, it comes back every single time.

A great driving force behind the Queen's motives is her father's opinion of her. Early on in the book we make the shocking discovery that all was not as it seemed between them. Things start to really pick up after the King dies. Marred by her father's treatment, she is haunted by it more so now than ever before. To her horror, he turns out to be the face in the mirror on the wall. He's bound to tell the truth now and now declares the Queen's beauty. This isn't long after her husband's death and in her grief she finds a warped comfort in her revenge. Now her father's soul has to acknowledge her beauty and each day she repeats the famous lines, "who's the fairest of them all," she becomes more and more obsessed with her beauty. But it isn't the fact that he has to admit she's beautiful; she loves that she has power over him now. A man responsible for much of her unhappiness as a child and all of her insecurities now has to tell her how beautiful she is.

She becomes so obsessed with the mirror and her beauty that when she doesn't ask it who's fairest, her attitude changes and she's cranky, unpleasant, etc. She depends on it for her "happiness" and doesn't even realize that she's become addicted to the constant affirmation of her beauty. This obsession leads her to magically alter herself and alters the very person she is. We watch her transform from this sweet woman and into a cold, witch who desires people to fear her. I honestly think that she diminishes her beauty from the inside and that that's the reason why Snow White was able to surpass her beauty later on.

The more years that pass, the more the Queen resents Snow's beauty (which is something we had a slight taste of in the beginning). The Queen has power and beauty but it still isn't enough and she can't tolerate anyone being considered more beautiful than her. She becomes so selfish that she won't even allow her own daughter to be happy and is jealous when Snow finds love when the Queen's heart still mourns the death of her husband. Meanwhile, the Queen is already depending on the mirror's/her father's warped sense of opinion from which he derives the "truth" from.

The Queen is so addicted to being beautiful that she tries to (as we all know) kill her own daughter. I mean, we all knew that already but Fairest of All really brings that action and event into real perspective, especially after we've watched the villain fall from grace.

Needless to say, I enjoyed this book a lot. It turned out to be far more than I expected it to be, which was great. After the Queen turned wicked, there were some pretty creepy images floating about for one chapter. It was short but intense. I was babysitting when I read it so everything was really quiet at the time (the kids were asleep). So, in short. Fairest of All was a great book. If you're expecting a happy ending, I suggest you stop now. Valentino ended the book on a complete note but the story was about the villain. And unfortunately, villains don't get pleasant, happy endings. They usually die. I'm serious though, read it.