A retelling of Snow White presented as a thriller in the winter of Finland, this novel casts familiar heroes and villains into contemporary roles. In As Red as Blood, there are things a bit more dangerous than a jealous Queen. A story of betrayal and secrets both past and present, it’s full of mysteries that keeps you turning the pages.
Lumikki knows how to be invisible. She’s used it as a way to survive her past and her present in an art school full of people trying to stand out. It’s a little harder than it seems when your parents name you after Snow White. Applying to an art school far away from her parents and hometown is Lumikki’s escape: from her hometown, from the tension with origins unknown, and from her past. She’s trying to find a place where she feels at home while simultaneously avoiding that feeling. She’s succeeded at blending in, but a decision to take a call drags her into a situation that is incredibly dangerous. Suddenly, three of her classmates, Tuukka, Elisa, and Kaspar, who found bloodied money, are looking toward her for help in finding the answers. And Lumikki can’t find it in herself to refuse, even as she knows the risk they’re all in.
Lumikki is the strongest character in As Red as Blood. There is a mystery surrounding her that you want to know the answer to even as the mystery of the money continues to grow. I couldn’t decide which one I was more interested in. She lives simply, preferring a Spartan apartment in lieu of a well-furnished one. Studying and graduating are more important to her than the social dance that the rest of her classmates perform. Lumikki is also curious and empathetic, so when Elisa asks her for help, she can’t refuse. The moments when she’s realizing there’s more to her classmates than meets the eye are a nice change from when she’s ridiculing them for being too beautiful and / or fake. Lumikki is flawed, and she knows it. In contrast, the rest of the characters aren’t as well-fleshed out. We get a little bit of characterization for Elisa when Lumikki interacts with her, but it pales in comparison to Lumikki’s characterization. I felt that there could have been a bit more done for the “bad guys” of the story. I really love when authors give us a villain’s reasoning. When it’s really good, you can truly understand and, to a point, emphasize with why they act the way they do. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that feeling with As Red as Blood. They were just bad because money was involved and it corrupts. As Red as Blood, although written in multiple perspectives, is really about Lumikki. The other perspectives just provide a short break from the protagonist’s thoughts and actions.
As Red as Blood had some beautiful writing. Of course, I read the translated version of the novel, but you can really tell that a translation is good when the words are not stilted in anyway. It was natural without taking away from the original intentions of Salla Simukka. The writing does a wonderful job of transporting me to Finland, a place I’ve never been. The dialogue is at times serious and other times is clever. It is intelligent and doesn’t fall into the trap of chat-speak or acronyms, even though the main character is in high school and observing her classmates. There are times of action when the dialogue runs together and you don’t necessarily know who the speaker is. It gives confusion to what is going on, so the reader isn’t always in the know.
Lumikki isn’t always a reliable character either. As she tries to solve where the cash came from, she also keeps her past hidden. It comes out only in her dreams, which she tries to immediately forget. As Red as Blood becomes equally about the mystery of her past as it does about the cash. She has convinced herself that she’s learned to manage her fear, and now she must do it again. This time, however, will it be enough?
As Red as Blood was a quick read and I enjoyed the mentions of fairy tales. It was a little bit of a tame thriller compared to the ones in the adult fiction genre, but that is more the fault that this is a young adult novel more than the author’s. I’m definitely going to check out more of the English translated works of Salla Simukka, including the rest of these. That said, this novel can function as a stand-alone. The events that transpire within its pages conclude nicely.
I received a read-to-review uncorrected proof from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.