6 August 2016

As Black as Ebony

Image from www.hotkeybooks.com
As Black as Ebony
Salla Simukka (trans Owen F Witesman)
Hot Key Books, 6 August 2015
PB, 166pp
Source: Advance copy kindly provided by Hot Key

Snow White Week, part 3

I'm reviewing the three books in Salla Simukka's Snow White trilogy. My review of As Red as Blood is here and my review of As White as Snow, here.

 Now we come to the third and final book, As Black as Ebony.

Once upon a time there was a secret girl.
Once upon a time there was a girl who wasn't.

Like the earlier books, the story focusses on Lumikki Andersson, surely destined to be one of the greatest (and coolest) Scandi noir characters.

We're back in Tampere now. It's nearing Christmas and Lumikki's at school again, preparing for the Christmas play, a version of Snow White (of course). But weird stuff begins to happen. Unlike before, where Lumikki got into trouble by breaking her own rule of not getting involved in others' business, here it's focussed on her from the start. She begins to get anonymous messages, obsessive, increasingly unhinged messages.

Whoever is sending them knows a great deal about her - perhaps more than she does herself.

Because over the course of her previous adventures, Lumikki began to suspect that her parents were keeping something from her - something about her early life. Now, she begins to fear that this knowledge is what's driving her pursuer: to save herself she may have to go to places her family has walled off from her.

This is a tense and taut story, shorter than the other books, and spends much of its time in Lumikki's thoughts (although we also get glimpses - disturbing glimpses - inside someone else's mind). The knowledge we've built up, in the earlier books, of her character and history adds to the atmosphere here.  Indeed this book is the culmination of those earlier stories: looking back over the trilogy, each book focusses more closely on Lumikki herself and the bad fairytale that her life turns out to have been

As if having an all-knowing stalker wasn't enough, She also has to deal with the two boys in her life - the enigmatic and sensual Blaze returns (about whom Lumikki fantasises and who she is clearly still in love with) but she's started a relationship with Sampsa, a more homely and gentle type. Blaze has, she feels hurt her and she can't be with him, even though him who comes into her head when she's in bed with Sampsa. But can she trust either of them when those oh-so-accurate messages about her past begin to arrive?

This was a compelling read, wrapped up even more than the previous books in the retelling of a fairy story: at times it's as though Lumikki was written by the Brothers Grimm but she has none of the conventionality of a Snow White or a Sleeping Beauty - she's not waiting for a prince and not prepared to fall under anybody's enchantment. In the end she has the determination to act - she's not going to have her story written for her.

In bringing this haunting trilogy to a marvellous conclusion, Simukka has completed a memorable and truly original story with a truly enchanting and capable hero who deserves - I hope - further books.

For more about the books, see here. To buy As Black as Ebony, go to your local bookshop, or here, here or here.

I'll be hosting an interview with Salla Simukka about the books here tomorrow - watch this space!

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