Prince Richard is cursed. Enslaved to a magic mirror, he must truthfully answer the evil queen when she uses it to call on him. To keep from betraying innocents, Richard wanders the countryside and avoids people. All her life, Gretchen has been teased for being small. When she hears of a hidden farm populated by little people like her, she sets out to find it - and is welcomed by the mostly male inhabitants. Lars in particular woos her with his gentle kindness and quiet strength. Danger looms when Gretchen meets a runaway princess and offers her shelter at the Little Farm. Wandering nearby, Richard instantly falls in love with the beautiful princess, and is later compelled to tell the queen that she is not the fairest of them all. Enraged, the queen vows to find them and destroy them. If either Gretchen or Richard are to have their happy endings, they must team up to break the mirror's spell before the queen kills them all.... For another fairy tale retelling from Tia Nevitt, check out The Sevenfold Spell, available now!
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I rarely read fairytale retellings, but I picked up The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf because its author, Tia Nevitt, is a friend of mine. She’s a former fellow SFF blogger and she lives just a few minutes away from me, so we chat occasionally and have gotten together a few times. Also, I enjoyed her first published novel, the first in her ACCIDENTAL ENCHANTMENTS series, The Sevenfold Spell, a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty which focuses on the minor characters in the story. I read it without telling her I was reading it, just so I wouldn’t have to admit I didn’t like it if it failed to please. (Fortunately, I did like it!)
The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf has a similar set-up. In this case, Tia delightfully mangles the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. In Tia’s version the evil queen has cursed a former lover, Prince Richard, with the magic mirror — he must truthfully answer three questions for her every morning and evening. She uses Richard’s knowledge to rule her land tyrannically and to assure herself that she is still “the fairest of them all.” The seventh dwarf of the title is a young woman named Gretchen who is teased for being short and misshapen. When she hears about a farm where dwarves live, she goes there to try to find a husband. Soon she meets Angelika, the beautiful princess who is seeking shelter from her evil stepmother, the queen. When Prince Richard happens along and sees the princess, he must tell the truth: the evil queen is no longer the fairest of them all. This, as you might expect, causes all sorts of problems for everybody.
Tia’s ACCIDENTAL ENCHANTMENTS stories, published by Harlequin’s ebook imprint, are definitely romances. I don’t usually like romance novels, but what sets Tia’s stories apart is her in-depth characterization of minor characters and the way she uses their troubles to explore real human emotions. In this story, I truly felt for Gretchen who sees herself as an outsider who can never fit in. She wants to be a good person, but the bullying she experiences and her jealousy of “normal” girls threatens to negatively affect her personality. When she decides to escape, she goes to the farm hoping simply to find people like her and a decent partner who can help her share the burdens of life. Based on her past experiences in life, she doesn’t dare to hope for anything more, especially not for love.
Richard and Angelika likewise, have been shaped by their experiences. Richard used to be a pampered playboy prince until the queen cursed him, and Angelika would have been a beautiful pampered princess if not for her jealous stepmother. Their own suffering at the evil queen’s hand has made them aware of the misery of others in her realm. When Gretchen, Prince Richard, and Angelika meet, they all learn a lot about beauty, vanity, and love. The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf is definitely a romance novel, but Tia’s attention to each character’s psychological growth and the formation of healthy romantic relationships distinguishes her work from the types of romance novels that I hate.
The audio version of The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf which I listened to is just over 4½ hours long. I wasn’t crazy about narrator Angela Park’s voice — it tends to get high and squeaky at points and sometimes she over-enunciates as if she’s reading to a child (but this is definitely not a book for children). Once I got over this, I was able to enjoy the story, but I’d suggest trying the audio sample before investing in that version ($4.95). If you don’t like it, buy the Kindle version instead. It’s currently selling for only $1.99.