Audiobook Review: Stitching Snow, R.C. Lewis (2014)

January 23rd, 2015 12:32 pm by Kelly Garbato

A Futuristic, Sometimes-Sinister Retelling of Snow White

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free audiobook for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program. This review contains spoilers. Also, trigger warning for rape.)

It took me seventeen seconds to decide Jarom Thacker’s reputation as the sharpest fighter on Thanda had been exaggerated. At twice my size — and age — he was quick, forcing me to move or risk getting pinned against the cage, but he made a rookie mistake. Like everyone else who came through Mining Settlement Forty-Two, he aimed for my gut. So predictable.

Wouldn’t want to botch the pretty girl’s face, right? Idiot.

I blocked him on the left, but sweat stinging my eyes blinded me to his fist slamming into my right side. Pain flared through my ribs. The fire spurred me on, and I slipped Thacker’s grip when he grabbed at my arm.

Unlike him, I had no qualms about uglifying him further.

Princess Snow is missing. Or at least that’s what her father, the cruel and manipulative King Matthias, believes.

After a botched assassination attempt by her stepmother, Queen Olivia, “Snowflake” fled her home planet of Windsong, settling on the remote and icy Thanda. Here, Essie – as she’s now known – makes herself useful by “stitching” code to improve the mine’s conditions; she can often be found in the cage, beating miners twice her size to a bloody pulp for extra cash monies to fund her tinkering. It’s not much of a living, but at least she’s alive. Nearly ten years pass before her relative isolation is shattered by the crash-landing of a rogue, treasure-hunting Garamite boy in her backyard.

The words of her long-dead mother echoing in her head (“Windsong needs to you give them better than they have”), Essie unexpectedly pays it forward, helping the boy – Dane – to fix his shuttle at her own expense. Little does she know that she’s the treasure he’s in search of; for her trouble, Dane drugs and kidnaps her from Thanda, with the intention of trading her back to King Matthias in exchange the Candaran Exiles who were imprisoned in the wake of her disappearance. When new information comes to light, and the duo are forced to make several detours around the solar system, plans change – and Essie and Dane team up to infiltrate the royal palace.

A sometimes-dark retelling of Snow White (due to the incest/rape subplot, this probably isn’t suitable for the tween crowd), Stitching Snow kept me entertained, but barely. It’s difficult to rate this one, given that my criteria for print and audio books differs somewhat. Since I tend to listen to audiobooks while performing mindless chores – dusting, vacuuming, washing and peeling produce – my main concern is, Does this distract me from what I’m doing and make the time go faster? The answer here is mostly yes. However, if I had read it in print or ebook form, it’s likely it would have been a DNF.

The sheer repetition of certain points really started to grate about a quarter of the way in. For example, while I enjoyed the feminist backstory behind the book’s title – instead of sewing clothing, like the Neanderthals on Thanda expect her to, Essie “stitches” code – all the tech talk quickly grew tiresome. You like puzzles! You’re clever, we get it! Yet for someone supposedly so intelligent, Essie is painfully slow to pick up on Olivia’s machinations (e.g., the poisoned apple necklace; the bombing of the faux front lines during Essie’s visit).

Likewise, Lewis repeats Alaina’s words so often that she soon starts to sound like the quintessential nag (for lack of a better word). And can we talk for a moment about Alaina? Of course the woman was a badass for infiltrating enemy territory so completely, but was it really fair to bring a child into your war games? At best, Essie was part of Alaina’s cover story; at worst, a pawn to carry out Plan B should her mother fail. Not cool!

The Essie-Dane pairing also left a sour taste in my mouth. I’m so over this trend in YA of coupling young women with men who have screwed them over somehow. Because their shitty behavior was a misunderstanding, borne of misinformation, and/or for the greater good, suddenly it’s excusable – forgivable, even. And while I can certainly understand the logic behind Dane’s actions, I hate that Essie chose to marry him even after such a fundamental breach of trust. Lewis even makes a joke of it.

(I can’t find the passage online, but it goes something like this: “There’s just one problem. What will I tell our kids when they ask how we met? That their father kidnapped their mother?” Lol, dad had no respect for mom’s autonomy. Hardeeharhar!)

That’s not to say there aren’t some aspects of the story that I liked. I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, and this one – with its futuristic, science fiction elements set against an almost medieval backdrop – is rather imaginative. It also holds great feminist promise, both in Essie’s transgressive living situation (she’s the only female on a planet of toxically masculine males) and her traumatic past. Stitching Snow deserves props for exploring her PTSD in detail, rather than letting it fall by the wayside when no longer convenient or interesting (Captive, I’m looking at you).

That said, this early potential was undermined somewhat by pairing Essie up with Dane; but the beginning of the story, before Essie and Dane leave Thanda, is quite engaging. I also really loved the drones, which are stand-ins for the traditional seven dwarfs.

As for the narration, Mia Barron does a good enough job, though the occasionally phlegmy quality to her voice icked me out. Here and there I found myself wishing I could fetch the poor lady a hot mug of Throat Coat tea.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

 

Comments (May contain spoilers!)

Diversity: The Garamites are described as “golden-skinned”; possibly they could be people of color, but more likely they’re just super-tan due to their planet’s close proximity to the sun (which is how I read it). Otherwise, there isn’t any racial diversity that I recall.

Essie suffers from panic attacks and likely PTSD due to childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Unlike with Kitty’s PTSD in Captive (which is mentioned once or twice and then abandoned), Essie’s anxiety has an ongoing, severe negative impact on her life: on Thanda, she lives on the outskirts of the mining colony; mostly keeps to herself, eschewing social contact; and isn’t interested in men, because she’s afraid of physical and emotional intimacy. Her anxiety rears its head time and again, whether she’s physically cornered in a fight; grows close with Dane; or finally returns to Windsong to confront her rapist father. For this reason, I think that Stitching Snow qualifies as a diverse book.

Also, Dane loses a leg (it’s crushed in a automated door), but it’s in the last few chapters of the book, so his disability isn’t explored in detail.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Audiobook Review: Stitching Snow, R.C. Lewis (2014)”

  1. Audiobook News & Reviews: 01/23/15 | ListenUp Audiobooks Says:

    […] Stitching Snow, by R.C. Lewis, narrated by Mia Barron, review via Vegan Deamon […]

  2. 2015 Dive Into Diversity Challenge: January Roundup » vegan daemon Says:

    […] Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis (2014); reviewed here […]

Leave a Reply