Title: Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
Release date: October 25th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Historical Fiction
There never was a story that was happy through and through.
When writer Arthur Ransome leaves his home in England and moves to Russia to work as a journalist, it is with little idea of the violent revolution about to erupt. Unwittingly, he finds himself at its center, tapped by the British to report back on the Bolsheviks even as he becomes dangerously romantically entangled with revolutionary leader Trotsky’s personal secretary. Both sides seek to use Arthur for their own purposes…and, as he struggles to find autonomy, both sides grow to suspect him of being a double agent. Arthur wants only to elope far from the conflict with his beloved. But when he attempts to extract himself and Evgenia from the complicated politics and politicians that he fears will lead them both to their deaths, the decisions he faces are the most dangerous and difficult of his life.
Arthur Ransome’s story was an odd one to read about, namely because of the separation of this book into very different parts. The first part, detailing how Arthur came to be in Russia in the first place, is told completely in second-person with the addition of a fairy tale like retelling of the fall of Czar Nicolas II and the rise of the Bolsheviks. I honestly didn’t know you could paint a portrait of Lenin and Trotsky in a way that reminds me of the train-top ghost from The Polar Express, but hey, I learn something new every day. The second part is basically Arthur’s story – now that we’ve covered all the background information with the help of a Mysterious Narrator – and is a much denser kind of story, with honestly pretty boring and unreliable characters that twist this Russian Revolution retelling into more of a slightly interesting backdrop setting to the love story of a man who really needs to go back to his actual wife and divorce her properly before falling prey to instalove with a Russian secretary after leaving his wife and child in the dead of night twice.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. History retellings are incredibly fascinating, and there is so much detail that can be difficult to turn into a young adult novel. However, this didn’t feel like a young adult novel, and more like poor marketing by people who didn’t bother to read the book. Likely the reason this book (originally released in 2007) became popular again is because a handful of publishers looked at the title, saw “retelling” in the blurb, and marketed it to people who like Heartless or Dorothy Must Die. The characters in this book aren’t young adults. The magical realism in the first chapter is simply depressing and takes too long to get to the point. I highly believe that Sedgewick is a great author because I have seen a lot of praise for him by people I admire and respect, but this book just isn’t cutting it for me.
What did you think of this book? Am I being too harsh with Arthur and his flaws? Let me know your opinions in the comments below!