Dark Shimmer by Napoli, Donna Jo
Wendy Lamb books, 2015. 978-0385746557. $16.99. 369p.
Dolce (Sweet) is a fifteen-year-old girl who lives as a “giant” among a race of dwarves on the island of Torcello outside Venice during the Middle Ages.
Most babies born who are not dwarves are taken from the parents. Dolce’s mother could not stand to do that, but when her mother dies, Dolce leaves the island, finding refuge on a neighboring island inhabited by monks- and a family visiting there. The father, a widower, falls in love and marries Dolce, who becomes a loving mother to his daughter, Bianca. (White) This is the story of how Snow White’s stepmother became the wicked witch.
On Torcello, Dolce learned how to make mirrors, and does so in Venice, first to become accepted in society, and later to purchase and free any dwarf who has become a slave. The problem is, of course, that the quicksilver used in mirrors caused one to descend into madness.
While Dolce is a sympathetic character, she quickly becomes so stereotyped that we are reduced to a reader of any fairy tale book. Bianca is not well developed, and Marin, the husband, barely exists. His sister Angnola becomes the most interesting character in the book.
The story follows the original fairy tale, and we turn pages only because we want to see how Napoli will play out the tale we know, not because we are invested in the characters. The story reads as an impersonal fairy tale: still a good tale, just a forgettable one. Napoli has turned many fairy tales into novels, some of which have been well done (Sirena, Breath, Beast [both versions.])
Recommended 12 up