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Book review: <i>The Dwarf And The Twins</i> by Katharina Gerlach

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the cover of the book

Snow White and Rose Red is one of the Grimms’ most popular stories. But what if the Grimms brothers version is misguided? Katharina Gerlach turns this tale on its head.

The story

Snow White and Rose Red grow up in a tiny cottage in the woods with only their mother to care for them. They don’t know their story, and their mother doesn’t tell them until they are old enough - they owe their lives to a shy dwarf named Martin, who watches over them.

Martin doesn’t just watch over the girls. He has a vested interest in the rest of the kingdom as well, and uses his magic in an attempt to right the wrongs of the current king. The battle is uphill, though, and the king knows he’s being threatened. A search party is sent into the woods in which the family have lived peacefully.

The girls are warned to stay out of the fight, but their lives are inextricably linked to the fate of the kingdom. Can each of them find love, and peace, in a kingdom torn apart by greed and slavery?

The style

This little novelette is outstanding in its simplicity. A fairytale is tempting, writing your own or re-writing someone elses, and often an inexperienced author will fall into the trap of trying to overdo it - the style becomes to flowery, or the telling too over-the-top Disney. Gerlach avoids this beautifully. Her style takes the tried and true Grimm’s brothers' narrative (those guys knew stories like that tell themselves, but tended towards cold, despairing undertones) and infuses it with the kind of lightness and whimsy the modern day reader expects in a fairytale. It’s lovely.

Each of Gerlach’s characters represents an fairytale archetype, lending a safe familiarity to the story, however she also imbues them with their own spirit and individuality which carries the story. It has just the right quantities of originality and tradition, which mix together to make something sweet and charming.

Who is this book for?

Me. And if you’re like me, and you’re a sucker for fairy tales, then it’s for you as well.

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I know there have been fairytale retellings done recently (I think it’s quite popular in both literature and the movies) but I will equate the style to Isabele Allende for its understated magic and sweetness and leave it at that.

In short

Title: The Dwarf And The Twins
Author: Katharina Gerlach
Publisher: Fairy tale
Review Type: