Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

3.6 153
by Gregory Maguire

View All Available Formats & Editions

The year is 1502, and seven-year-old Bianca de Nevada lives perched high above the rolling hills and valleys of Tuscany and Umbria at Montefiore, the farm of her beloved father, Don Vicente. But one day a noble entourage makes its way up the winding slopes to the farm — and the world comes to Montefiore.

In the presence of Cesare Borgia and his sister, the

…  See more details below


The year is 1502, and seven-year-old Bianca de Nevada lives perched high above the rolling hills and valleys of Tuscany and Umbria at Montefiore, the farm of her beloved father, Don Vicente. But one day a noble entourage makes its way up the winding slopes to the farm — and the world comes to Montefiore.

In the presence of Cesare Borgia and his sister, the lovely and vain Lucrezia — decadent children of a wicked pope — no one can claim innocence for very long. When Borgia sends Don Vicente on a years-long quest, he leaves Bianca under the care — so to speak — of Lucrezia.

She plots a dire fate for the young girl in the woods below the farm, but in the dark forest salvation can be found as well ...

A lyrical work of stunning creative vision, Mirror Mirror gives fresh life to the classic story of Snow White — and has a truth and beauty all its own.

Editorial Reviews

Boston Herald
“A brilliant achievement.”
Publishers Weekly
Maguire has a lock on clever, elaborate retellings of fairy tales, turning them inside out and couching them in tongue-in-cheek baroque prose. After his revisionist takes on Oz's Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked) and Cinderella's ugly stepsisters (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), he now tackles Snow White. The notorious Borgia habit of poisoning rivals inspired him to transplant the classic tale to 16th-century Tuscany, where Vicente de Nevada is an expatriate Spanish widower who lives with his daughter, the fair Bianca. Beholden to sinister Cesare Borgia and Cesare's sister (and perhaps lover) Lucrezia, Vicente is sent on what appears to be a fool's errand, to discover and steal from a Middle East monastery a branch of the Tree of Knowledge complete with three apples. When Bianca is 11, Cesare's attraction to her causes the envious Lucrezia to order a young hunter to murder her and deliver her heart in a casket. Bianca, of course, is spared and taken in by seven dwarfs. But this is not Disney; the dwarfs are boulders, stirred to life by Bianca's arrival ("a clothed, bearded obstinacy became slowly apparent"). Several years pass in surreal, dreamlike fashion, with Bianca tending to the dwarfs, who cavort stiffly and philosophize collectively. When Vicente returns successful, Lucrezia poisons an apple for her rival. Innocent Bianca's fate is gentle, but that of the corrupt Lucrezia, in brilliant Venice, is appropriately grotesque. Fairy tales in their original form are often brutal and disturbing; with his rich, idiosyncratic storytelling, Maguire restores the edge to an oft-told tale and imbues it with a strange, unsettling beauty. (Oct. 14) Forecast: The near-simultaneous release of this book and the opening of the big-budget musical version of Wicked on Broadway will likely land Maguire in the media spotlight. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A dark and vivid retelling of Snow White transposed to the Italy of the Borgias. Lucrezia is the evil stepmother and five-year-old Bianca de Nevada grows into the role of Snow White. Vicente, a minor landlord beholden to Lucrezia and her brother/lover Cesare, unwillingly leaves his motherless daughter to go on a seemingly futile errand for Cesare. Journeying to Greece to seek out a branch of the holy Tree of Knowledge, Vicente languishes for years in the dungeon of the very monks who possess the relic. While her father is gone, Bianca develops into a lovely young woman, attracting Cesare's attention. Seeing this, Lucrezia orders her killed and sends a young hunter into the woods with the familiar instructions. Adding much historical flavor and returning to the edgy eroticism of the fairy tale, Maguire invests the journeys of the Borgias, Bianca, and Vicente with a compelling urgency. Readers will be intrigued by the new story and yet curious as to how the familiar elements are brought in. Sometimes seven, sometimes eight, the dwarves, slowly awakening to their possibilities, are droll and great fun to listen to. The language has an old-fashioned quality and the point of view shifts frequently, but teens who continue to the end will learn much of medieval Italy and a little of human nature, and have a new respect for the old tale. This is a great addition to the Maguire shelf.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
cassette 0-06-056767-8 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs relocate to early-17th-century Tuscany, in this wildly inventive latest from the author of such adult fantasies as Wicked (1995) and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (1999). Bianca de Nevada is a motherless five-year-old growing up on her father Vicente's Montefiore farm, under the watchful eyes of crusty Fra Ludovico and earthy cook Primavera. When a visit from politically ambitious nobleman Cesare Borgia sends Vicente off to perform an "impossible" task (retrieving an apple-laden branch from the biblical Tree of Knowledge), Bianca is left to the tender mercies of Cesare's equally ruthless sister (and, rumor has it, lover) Lucrezia. Maguire rings several ingenious changes on the familiar tale, making the magical mirror now possessed by Bianca's de facto stepmother Lucrezia the creation of the seven dwarves with whom Bianca will find refuge, after Primavera's malcontent grandson Ranucchio disobeys Lucrezia's order to lure Bianca into the forest to her death. Vicente survives his ordeal and returns home to find his daughter missing and presumed dead. Seventeen years following these initial events, Cesare has perished in battle, Lucrezia has fallen victim to her own malevolence and paranoia, and Ranuccio completes his redemption with the chaste act that brings the story to its well-known conclusion. A succession of (mostly) brief chapters keeps things moving, and Maguire refreshes his source material capably, depicting the dwarves as eerie semi-human hybrids ("granite figures imitating creatures"), concocting a honey of a plot twist featuring a vagabond "eighth dwarf," and reimagining the notorious Borgia siblings as monsters giftedwith intellect, wit, and paradoxical depth. Almost everything works, in a pastiche that's a model of the form. Every bit as good as Wicked: wicked good, in fact. Author tour

Read More

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.80(d)
950L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Mirror Mirror

Chapter One

The roofs of Montefiore

From the arable river lands to the south, the approach to Montefiore appears a sequence of relaxed hills. In the late spring, when the puckers of red poppy blossom are scattered against the green of the season, it can look like so much washing, like mounds of Persian silk and Florentine brocade lightly tossed in heaps. Each successive rise takes on a new color, indefinably more fervent, an aspect of distance and time stained by the shadows of clouds, or bleached when the sun takes a certain position.

But the traveler on foot or in a hobble-wheeled peasant cart, or even on horseback, learns the truth of the terrain. The ascent is steeper than it looks from below. And the rutted track traverses in long switchbacks to accommodate for the severity of the grade and the cross cutting ravines. So the trip takes many more hours than the view suggests. The red-tiled roofs of Montefiore come into sight, promisingly, and then they disappear again as hills loom up and forests close in.

Often I have traveled the road to Montefiore in memory. Today I travel it in true time, true dust, true air. When the track lends me height enough, I can glimpse the villa's red roofs above the ranks of poplars, across the intervening valleys. But I can't tell if the house is peopled with my friends and my family, or with rogues who have murdered the servants in their beds. I can't tell if the walls below the roofline are scorched with smoke, or if the doors are marked with an ashy cross to suggest that plague has come to gnaw the living into their mortal rest, their last gritty blanket shoveled over their heads.

But I have come out of one death, the one whose walls were glass; I have awakened into a second life dearer for being both unpromised and undeserved. Anyone who walks from her own grave relies on the unexpected. Anyone who walks from her own grave knows that death is more patient than Gesù Cristo. Death can afford to wait.

But now the track turns again, and my view momentarily spins back along the slopes I've climbed so far. My eye traces the foothills already gained, considers the alphabet of light that spells its unreadable words on the surface of the river. My eye also moves along the past, to my early misapprehensions committed to memory on this isolated outcropping.

The eye is always caught by light, but shadows have more to say.

Rest. Breathe in, breathe out. No one can harm you further than death could do. When rested, you must go on; you must find out the truth about Montefiore. Granted a second life, you must find in it more meaning than you could ever determine in your first.

The name of the world

The world was called Montefiore, as far as she knew, and from her aerie on every side all the world descended.

Like any child, she looked out and across rather than in. She was more familiar with the vistas, the promising valleys with their hidden hamlets, the scope of the future arranged in terms of hills and light.

Once a small dragon had become trapped in the bird-snaring nets slung in the uccellare. Bianca watched as the cook's adolescent grandson tried to cut it down and release it. Her eyes were fixed on the creature, the stray impossibility of it, not on the spinney in which it was caught. How it twitched, its webbed claws a pearly chalcedony, its eyes frantic and unblinking. (Despite the boy's efforts, it died, and his grandmother flayed it for skin with which to patch the kitchen bellows.)

Bianca regarded visitors to Montefiore with fierce attention: emissaries of the world. But the bones of her home -- the house itself -- remained as familiar and unregarded as her own fingernails.

Montefiore was larger than a farmer's villa but not so imposing as a castle. Too far from anywhere important to serve as a casale -- a country house -- it crowned an upthrust shoulder of land, so its fortifications were natural. On all sides, the steepness of the slope was a deterrent to invaders, and anyway, Montefiore wasn't large enough to interest the condottieri who led their small armies along the riverbank on one campaign or another.

Had Bianca an adult eye, she might have guessed from its mismatched roofs and inconsistent architectural details that many owners had lived here before her family arrived, shaping the space with a disregard for symmetry or loveliness. When its masters had had money, they'd made attempts to drill a little grandeur into the old stone hull, like crisp starched lace tied under the wet chins of a drooling nonna. A recently completed interior courtyard, handsomely done with columns and vaults in the revived archaic style, provided relief from the roaring breeze.

Except for the courtyard, though, most attempts at improvement had been abandoned in mideffort. Some windows were fitted with glass, but in most windows, squares of linen had been nailed to the shutter moldings, pale light conferring a sense of height and volume to the dark rooms. Along one retaining wall, a loggia ran unevenly, its walls inset with terrazzo putti whose faces had become bubonic with the remains of insect cocoons. For half a century the chapel had stood with a roof beam and naked struts, the old cladding and tiles having been swept away in an arrogant gale. When the January tramontana blustered in, the geese sometimes sheltered there from the wind, though they seldom took communion.

Fortunately too inaccessible to garrison an army, Montefiore was nonetheless valuable as a lookout. From time to time in its history it had been commandeered for its prospects. On a clear day one imagined one could glimpse the sea.

What child does not feel itself perched at the center of creation?

Mirror Mirror. Copyright © by Gregory Maguire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Mirror Mirror 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 153 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Maguire has done another outstanding job with an old classic. This is truly another way to look at fairy tales, and one that will make you think. Well done!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not enjoy <i>Mirror, Mirror</i>, which was a book club suggestion rather than a personal choice. I had read <i>Wicked</i> and not liked it much- the writing style seemed oddly impersonal and the tone did not work for me. McGuire seemed to be going for a balance between the cold pragmatism and cynicism of the Wicked Witch and the delightful, magical feel we associate with the Land of Oz. Despite liking the musical, the book left me cold. Because of that I was not looking forward to reading another book by the same author. In a retelling of a well-known story the author must be extremely strong on points such characterization in order to compensate for the lack of surprises in the plot. In <i>Mirror, Mirror</i> McGuire tried to achieve this by mixing the Snow White story with the mythologized history of the Borgia family. An interesting concept, but ultimately too similar to <i>Wicked</i> in its faults. The characters seemed to be flimsy and one dimensional. Despite the apparent purposefulness of this choice with regard to the dwarfs, it felt like sloppy writing. The details of Lucrezia's possible incestuous relationship with her brother felt like salacious gossip rather than useful addition to the plot. The ending was also disappointing. The worst part of Snow White is that she runs off with her prince despite hardly knowing him- and even worse, the reader doesn't know him either. <i>Mirror, Mirror</i> repeats this, despite having the opportunity to introduce a prince of an entirely different nature or a relationship that comes out differently from our princess and her prince in Disney and Grimm's. Basically, if you liked <i>Wicked,</i> you might like this. I'd call it a toss up. If you love Snow White stories, go for it. If you didn't like <i>Wicked</i> or haven't read anything by McGuire, I wouldn't bother. You're not missing much.
Awesomeness1 More than 1 year ago
Deffinately not Maguires best. The plot was nonexistant, the characters compltely drab, and the scenarios were somewhat disgusting. It was an utter peice of crap, but a peice of crap written beautifully.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Save your money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love how Gregory Maguire takes classic tales and creates a new twist on them. Really enjoyed reading this book.
Lizbiz5396 More than 1 year ago
I stopped reading this I thought it was so bad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was well written but not as interesting to me as the wicked series.
Alexia25 More than 1 year ago
My niece and I both read this book since we've enjoyed some of Gregory Maguire's other works. We both found it harder to stay interested in this book. It has a very slow beginning. My niece didn't even finish it, and she loves to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy McGuire, you enjoy this fairy tale
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
The ability to take a moment in History, add a fairytale and create a story that sheds light on both takes a mind that is rich in imagination, a broad grasp of History and a deep understanding of the Genre of Myth.  Gregory Maguire has proven his ability to retell a familiar tale in such a way so as to cause a tale to never be heard with “the same ears” again.  In this retelling of “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty,” he drafts Lucrezia Borgia into the role of the “Evil Step Mother/Witch” and makes more real a “bedtime story,” even though the original always spoke more than we parents wanted our children to understand. Set in early 16th Century Italy, a time of City-States who were in a near constant state of war with each other, the Vatican was less than Holy in its duty to over See of the world and farms were kingdoms unto themselves. Don Vicente and his daughter, Bianca, live on one such farm.  Their idyllic life is suddenly and rudely interrupted when, Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia, daughter and son of Pope Alexander VI, whose term as Pope set a standard of corruption unsurpassed until recent history, arrive.  Cesare, an arrogant warrior, sends Don Vicente on a quest to attain a branch from the Tree of Knowledge spoken of in the Book of Genesis, leaving the beautiful Bianca at the mercy of Lucrezia.  A (possible) historical fable is born and detailed with remarkable deftness. How the mirror is discovered, who made it, it’s designed use and the change brought about when all of the books elements are eventually combined is a delight to read and a moment of literary brilliance in writing.  The mirror is never meant to be a fortuneteller; rather, it is intended, as are all mirrors, to tell the truth as the seer would like it to be once all the “blemishes” have been removed. As is true in all good stories, the quest for power is prominent in the action of this book and, as is true in all fairytales, that power is subjugated by the true power found in innocence and truth.  The elements that cause such conquest are clearly evident, fluid and all around us; their familiarity causes those elements to be invisible until one becomes aware, as if waking from a dream, of the results wrought by the effect of the elements.  Quests are fulfilled once the seeker is brought to the place of facing the truth of their essence. Only then are we found to be worthy of the discovery of what we seek.   There is allusion to sex and violence in this story.  The characters are well developed and “believable” (as much as one is willing to suspend disbelief to believe in the existence of earth dwelling dwarfs). The ending is a commentary on the bitter-sweetness that is life.  We lose things that are dear, discover hidden strengths, learn to grow up, return home to find it has changed in our absence and we are not immediately recognized as belonging there.   Reading Maquire is a trip to the bedtime stories of one’s childhood, seeing them with the eyes of an adult – the fantasy made sense we were children because we wanted to believe; they make more sense now because we are willing to see life more clearly but still consider the possibility of magic.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book as some thought but not thing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
FYI best book i ever read in my life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorite book from Gregory Maguire! A beautiful retelling that has made this fairy tale my new favorite! Also a quick read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago