From my other blog Palimpsest (4/19/10):
by Margo Lanagan
A re-telling of the fairy tale "Snow White and Rose Red." Liga is in a sexually abusive relationship with her father, and has a child by him. He dies, and she has another child by gang rape. When she is about to kill herself, she is sent magically to her own private dimension, a paradise, devoid of all the people who were mean to her. There she raises her children, until the children start needing more from life than paradise.
It was ok. A bit to much incest and gang rape in the first few chapters for me, so I distanced myself from the characters b/c I knew eventually they would have something absolutely horrible happen to them. Especially when the daughters emerged back into the real world in the bloom of womanhood.
I started to enjoy the book halfway through when they emerge in reality and realize that life in the real world doesn't horribly suck all of the time, like it definitely did in the first half of the book. The introduction of characters like Miss Dance, the no-nonsense sorceress (best character in the book, I want to be her), Davit Ramstrong, Todda, and the older, wiser Annie, gave the book the life and goodness it was lacking.
I was intrigued by the message of the story: how you can't live protected in a fantasy world. You have to face adversity and hardship to grow into a complete person. And she did not simply state it flat out. She kept presenting both sides (protection and peace, but hollow, vs vibrant, exciting and dangerous).
I could not follow the magic scenes at all. So I ended up just skipping over them. It may have been her point that the characters didn't know what was going on either, but it did not work for me.
I think that if it is a Young Adult Fiction, it is a late high school kind of young adult fiction. In the book, sex is never an expression of a beautiful love. Even when the idea of love comes up, it is always an animal urge of dominance of one person over another. I think that the kids should be introduced to sex, its loving expressions and its consequences, before they are introduced to this violent and darker version.