"Dolce is a monster. A giant, a freak.Dark Shimmer tells a retelling of a familiar tale we all know. The Evil Queen from "Snow White" has been hated over and over again in so many adaptations and retellings. (Okay, there is an exception in ABC's Once Upon A Time. I so love Regina Mills even when she is at her worst.) And Dolce, despite her seemingly familiar appearance (note: her skin and lips and height), is the Evil Queen in this retelling.
Dolce is a princess. She walks like royalty—until dark shimmers make her fall.
Dolce is a mamma. She has found her true family.
Dolce is beautiful. But beauty can’t hide the monster inside.
Dolce is the Wicked One.
Set in medieval Venice, this captivating fairy tale retelling by award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli explores belonging, beauty, and the transformative power of love through the eyes of a teenage girl. Dolce has grown up hidden away on an island in a lagoon. She is a giant, a freak, tormented by everyone but her loving mother. She spends her time learning the valuable secret of making mirrors. Following a tragedy, Dolce swims away and lands on an island where people see her as normal, even beautiful. Marin, a kind widower, and his little daughter bring Dolce to live with them in their grand palazzo. Eventually, Dolce and Marin marry. She secretly continues to make mirrors, not realizing that quicksilver endangers her . . . and so evil begins in innocence."
The retelling is put together in such a creative way that I have to applaud Donna Jo Napoli for doing all the research and dreaming/finding the right factors that will make the story work. Dolce's stepdaughter is Snow White. Dolce's new husband is the king. The dwarves are the people who are short compared to the "giants." The fairy tale parallels nicely with this book, and readers will love finding the similarities between these two works.
Dolce starts off as an outsider in her small village. She is tall, a giant in a crowd of dwarves. She never quite fits in anywhere, and no one really knows her. She makes mirrors for a living, and she cares for her mother. But all of that changes when her mother dies and she drifts to a place where there are people just as tall as her. She is a very tragic villain, and though she does start off as a hero, she begins to lose her mind and dives down into a spiral downfall of insanity thanks to a substance called "quicksilver." ("Quicksilver" is actually mercury, and we all know how dangerous that certain substance is.)
Still, her character arc remains to be one of the most outstanding, dominating, and driving parts of the book. It stands out so much, and I absolutely love it. I can't help but wish for her to be better, but alas, the poor villain must fall as the original fairy tale demands. And yes, it is a sad tale (but it won't bring hardened readers to tears).
It's not just Dolce, in fact. Almost every character in this book stands out in one way or another. (The only exception is Dolce's husband. I can't remember much about him.) Those with POVs are unforgettable, and their voices just stick around long after I'm done with their chapters.
The ending of this book sticks so closely to the original fairy tale that I can't help but want to give the author a big round of applause. Wow, it's amazing how the author ties fairy tale elements to reality. The ending ties all loose ends, and it's a wonderful conclusion.
In conclusion, Dark Shimmer is a wonderful take on "Snow White" which remains faithful to the famous German fairy tale yet also makes the retelling itself a breath of fresh air.
Rating: Four out of Five