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Reviewed by Erika Grediaga for Readers' Favorite
Bad Apple: Once Upon a Time Book 3 by Aneta Cruz is a very dark and new view into the Snow White fairy tale. In Ms. Cruz's version, the evil stepmother needs a daughter in order to keep power as a Russian Czarina. Using magic, and for very selfish reasons, Princess Zarya "steals" the daughter of Mother Earth to remain on Russia's throne. However, as the child grows up and turns into a strikingly beautiful young woman, Zarya sees her own beauty fade and be eclipsed by her daughter's. The story evolves and takes an unexpected twist at the end. As I'd rather have readers discover this on their own, I won't write any spoilers here.
I very much enjoyed this book. It is a page-turner, full of magic, darkness and twisted turns to the original plot. The fact that the book is mainly written from the perspective and wants of the formerly-Step-Mother-now-Fake-Mother is a very interesting choice. The author delves deep into the psyche of the Princess/Czarina, and we get to see how her own vanity and selfishness destroy her bit by bit. Everything she does, from picking a husband as an accessory to creating a child out of interest, is always powered by vanity and greed. Then, once she has a child that she needs to care for, she suddenly suffers what most mothers go through: loss of sleep, worries, and many other things that directly impact on our "beauty." It is a sort of allegory on aging and making room for new generations. The evil Queen can't stand the idea of growing old, of losing her beauty.
Bad Apple is a dark journey into the female psyche, turning a well-known tale into something completely new and fresh. There are several elements of sexuality and violence that make me advise against younger audiences reading this book, but it's profoundly enjoyable for adults and teenagers who love the fantasy genre.