‘Fairy Tales’ have always been something for children. Now that I’m 35 I think I’ve well and truly outgrown ‘fairy tales’. The sort of books I read are normally far darker and nastier than anything you get in a ‘fairy tale’ but as I now have two children it’s not going to be very long before I’m reading them tales of Hansel & Gretel, Cinderella and even Snow White. I’m definitely not going to be reading them Poison by Sarah Pinborough. And why not? Because this, lords and ladies, is no ‘kids’ fairy tale. This is decidedly adults-only reading and you know what, damn, if an adult take on the classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves story doesn’t work like magic (see what I did there?). Taking all the traditional elements of this classic, the evil, witchlike Queen, her translucently beautiful step daughter (Snow White), some miners of diminutive stature, a huntsman, a handsome prince and a poisoned apple and giving it a good old modern mix up, adding in blow jobs and premarital sex, and you get a very different and thoroughly entertaining version of the story.
Even though Snow White is a very well-known tale this is so well written that it makes some of the ‘well worn’ elements seem fresh and new again. This is never a dull read. I’m not sure that Sarah Pinborough does ‘dull’. Told across a very pacy 200+ pages she creates a vivid fairy tale world that just rings a little bit more true than the ones we used to hear about when we were children. This is a slightly rose-tinted world in some ways, but there are some very real cracks in the glass through which some darkness and cynicism creeps in. For me that just makes it more believable. It also makes it a lot more fun. In fact, that’s one of the overriding feelings I was left with (after disappointment that the book ended): how much fun it was. It’s a real romp, and no I’m not just talking about the sex scenes. Despite all the evil and cynicism in the book, the murders and threats, it’s overridingly a fun book to read and that’s all down to the strength of Sarah Pinborough’s writing and the story she’s crafted out of the original, traditional elements.
Conceived as the first book in a trilogy of new, modern, fast-moving and very adult takes on traditional fairy tales this has plenty of hints at things to come in the remaining two books, Charm and Beauty. There are unresolved elements which no doubt will be addressed soon and I for one am looking forward very much to diving into Pinborough’s dark sexy fairy tale land again, and seeing which foreboding path she will lead me on, through the deep dark woods . . .