by Regina Doman
So my sister really wanted to borrow this book before it was due at the library, and she spirited it away before I had a chance to take a picture…
At any rate, this is the sequel to The Shadow of the Bear, and, like the first book, is the retelling of a fairy tale – except set in modern times, without magic. In Black as Night, Doman tells the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and I was more than a little impressed at how she capture all the basic tenants of the story even though she didn’t have magic, a witch, or dwarfs.
Doman seems to understand what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale, and thus her stories are unmistakably fairy tales. Black as Night was fairly believable. The story was well-paced and engaging. In this particular instance, dumping us into the middle of the story and then feeding us bits of the back-story as necessary really worked (sometimes it’s just confusing), as it definitely added to the confusion and terror that Blanche (the heroine) was feeling.
I think that the scariest part of this story was the same as it was with The Shadow of the Bear – injustice. That Blanche, though completely innocent, could be so completely framed, was terrifying. That those whom she should have been able to trust now suspect her, leaving her friendless and alone – that really fit the essence of the story of Snow White.
As I mentioned when reviewing The Shadow of the Bear, Doman is unashamedly Catholic, and her characters are as well. This is a major part of the story, but it works. Anyone who has truly come to grips with their religion knows that it is a huge part of who you are; the Catholicism of Blanche and some of the other characters is an intrinsic part of who they are, and without that aspect, much of their motivation, hope, encouragement, and yes, even frustration and despair, would be lacking.
While I think that the book will read fine for someone who is not particularly religious, it may still make someone who believes differently uncomfortable. For me (a protestant Christian), the only confusing part were moments where Doman assumed that her readers were Catholic and thus would completely understand what was going on. It wasn’t usually difficult to follow, but, for instance, she seems to assume that the reader will know the difference between a friar and a monk. It’s a sort of running joke throughout the book where someone says something about a monk, and one of the friars points out that they’re actually friars. I had no idea that there even was a difference, and finally had to look it up. It seems as though it would have been just as easy to, the first time it was mentioned, actually tell the readers – something along the lines of, “Oh, we’re not monks – our focus is on serving those around us, rather than living a cloistered life – we’re friars.”
A large part of this story is Blanche not knowing if she is going crazy or not, and Doman gives us that very well – I wasn’t even sure whether or not Blanche was going crazy. Even though at times it felt a little over-the-top, Blanche’s paranoia and fears were very real.
This book was longer than The Shadow of the Bear, and in some ways it felt too long. I can’t say exactly where it dragged, but it did, a bit. It was a book that, when I was actually reading it, I didn’t want to put down, but when I wasn’t reading it, I didn’t feel inspired to pick back up.
In short, it was a gripping read, but could have lost some pages without losing too much story. It was intense, well-written, an excellent fairy tale, though perhaps overly religious for some. However, I definitely recommend it as a sequel to The Shadow of the Bear (they really need to be read in order).