Review: As White As Snow & As Black As Ebony by Salla Simukka (Snow White, #2 & #3)

Disclaimer: As these are the second and third books in the series, the review might contain some unintended spoilers. I recommend you to read the first book (As Red As Blood) first.
Disclaimer#2: These books have not (yet) been translated into English, but will most likely be published by Hot Key Books (UK) or Skyscape (U.S.)

HARDCOVER ; 236 P.
TAMMI, 2013
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

Lumikki Andersson is backpacking in Prague, where the weather is scorching hot. A girl approaches her in a small café and claims to be her half sister. Lumikki’s parents seem to be hiding a secret concerning the family’s past, so the girl’s claim rouses Lumikki’s interest. Despite her erratic behaviour, the girl manages to persuade Lumikki to join a religious family community. Later it turns out that the members are no relation to each other, after all. But it is not until Lumikki learns that the cult leaders are planning mass suicide that she understands just how dangerous the cult is. Furthermore, someone is planning to profit from the tragedy. Lumikki gets acquainted with the streets and graveyards of Prague when she is forced to run for her life to prevent the tragedy. The religion of the cult is not pure; and innocence is not as white as snow.

Lumikki Andersson wants to get a break from everything. The events of the past winter still haunt her and a short vacation in Prague seems to be just what the doctor ordered. However, soon after her arrival she encounters a young woman who tells Lumikki that she is her sister. There has always been something strange in Lumikki’s family and thus she slowly begins to believe that Zelenka might truly be her sister.

I loved the first book, As Red As Blood, and thought that Lumikki presented a very interesting and refreshing protagonist. In As White As Blood, the scenery is the complete opposite: whereas in Tampere the weather was extremely cold, Prague is in the middle of a summer heatwave. The mystery of the second book is two-folded: is Zelenka her sister and what is going on in the cult? On top of that, Lumikki is coming to terms with the relationship that changed her life. As a reader I was a bit overwhelmed with all the different elements in the story, while at the same time I was underwhelmed with the actual mystery. For me, the plot of the sister just felt a bit too unrealistic – instead, I would have loved to read more about the broadcasting schemes.

Nevertheless, Simukka writes extremely entertainingly and I loved her descriptions of scenery and as well as the action. I guess my general problem with second books in series is that they often seem to only fill in the gaps between other books. As White As Snow focuses more on the character of Lumikki than the mystery itself, but I felt that as a character, she didn’t grow. I recommend the book to those reading the series as well as others interested in the mystery genre.

3/5

HARDCOVER; 192 P. 
TAMMI, 2014
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

The high school of performing arts is rehearsing a modern-day version of Snow White, and Lumikki Andersson is set to play the leading role. The rehearsals are going well, and there seems to be genuine chemistry between Lumikki and the boy playing the role of the huntsman. Will she finally get a happy ending? As the opening night approaches, Lumikki starts receiving notes from a secret admirer whose infatuation soon turns out to be a dangerous obsession. The admirer threatens to turn the premiere into a blood bath unless Lumikki consents to his demands. Lumikki tries to uncover the stalker’s true identity, and in doing so comes face to face with the darkest secrets from her past:  what happened to her sister? Time is running out, the opening night is just around the corner and Lumikki has to find a way to outwit the stalker with a soul as black as ebony.

The third and final installment in the Snow White trilogy returns to Tampere, Finland. Lumikki seems to have found a balance in her life and is rehearsing for a school play for Christmas. However, she starts receiving strange messages from someone who seems to know more about her past than she does. As the messages take a darker turn, Lumikki is again forced to run to save herself and others.

As Black As Ebony is a gripping book that I read in one evening. After beginning, I could not put it down but stayed up late to finish the book. The writing and the pacing of the story forces you to keep reading, turning page after page. Behind the mystery of the dangerous messages, is the larger mystery about Lumikki’s past and the family secrets. A fair warning: it is dark, very dark.

In my opinion As Black As Ebony was a well-balanced story, avoiding the overload of  the second book. Personally, however, it did not quite reach the same level of awesomeness as the first book. Overall, the Snow White series presents well-written mysteries but also deals with a lot important themes of sexuality, bullying, loneliness and relationships. I definitely recommend that you pick it up if the mystery genre is something that you enjoy.

4/5

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