Saturday, October 27, 2018

Review: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Title: Blanca and Roja
Written by: Anna-Marie McLemore
Published: October 9, 2018 by Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know. 

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan. 

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

I have read and loved every one of Anna-Marie MacLemore's books. I was really excited to learn that she was writing a book based on Snow White and Rose Red, a fairy tale I always loved as a girl. This book was beautiful, and heart-breaking, and enthralling, and amazing.

First and foremost this was an amazing retelling. As I said, I loved the story of Snow White and Rose Red as a kid. I was really impressed with the way that McLemore interpreted and modernized the story. She gave even more magic and wonder with the story and still made it feel very current with an LGBTQIA character and making it about identity. But the retelling also went deeper with elements from The Six Swans and the Ugly Duckling. You would think with all these fairy tales working together it would be confusing and muddled but instead it made for something different and unique.

I think it all worked together because of the plot of this book. It's one of those books that I would call a modern fairy tale. It feels like a classic story but is something new and all it's own. I wouldn't say that the stakes are particularly high in this book but you are still invested in the stakes. McLemore draws you in and before you even realize you are terrified by what will happen to the characters and when bad things do happen you are heartbroken and still so entertained.

What really drew me in however is the characters. This one of those books with multiple perspectives which added a lot to the story. The main two perspectives of course are the titular characters of Blanca and Roja. The character I initially connected with Roja. She's the fiery and independent sister who is tough and emotional. But I also really enjoyed Blanca. She's the sweet and caring sister, but just as tough. Throughout the book the sisters are exploring the idea of who they are versus who other people want them to be, a theme I really enjoy. The sisters are very empathetic not because of who they are independently, but who they are together. The heart of this story is the love that the sisters have for each other. They would do anything for the other person and because they are in conflict it adds to misunderstanding and some really emotional moments.

But that is just the beginning for the characters. Interspersed with their perspectives were their love interests, Yearling and Page. Both of them are just as complex and are dealing with just as many struggles with their identity as the girls. This is the most noticeable with Page, a non-binary trans person. McLemore always does a great job with LGBTQIA rep and this book was no exception. I liked the way she changed pronouns when characters were referring to Page and thought it did a great job with exploring their identity.

But I think what I liked most about this book was the magic. McLemore is a master of Magical Realism. I have read all four of her books and they each have such different and such engaging magical worlds. First you had the curse of the del Cisne girls which in and of itself would have interesting enough but then you had the magic of the forest and how it affected Yearling and Page. I usually like my magic to go big or go home but here it was subtle and it worked so well. it drew you into the world and it made it feel more magical and fantastical like anything was possible. It raised the stakes and drew the reader into the story.

On the whole, I think this really was an amazing book. It has stuck with me long after finishing it and has proven just how good Anna-Marie McLemore is at writing Magical Realism and diverse characters. I think this may have just become my favorite book by her and that is saying something.

I give Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. Definitely pick up this book. It's beautifully written full of magic, great characters, and an enthralling plot which is a great retelling. If you like Magical Realism or fairy tale retellings then check this out.

Have you read Blanca & Roja? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

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