I admit that I know Patricia C. Wrede from her Enchanted Forest Chronicles and "Book of Enchantments," which are for young adults and usually supposed to be humorous, neither of which applies to "Snow White and Rose Red." But I have glimpsed her ability to be a serious writer in such short stories as "Earthwitch" and "Stronger Than Time" (in "BoE"), and this is not Wrede at her best.
Granted, the book is involving. I read far later into the night than I had planned. The plot is engaging and understandable, and the characters likable enough (well, the ones who were supposed to be likable, anyway). Wrede also does a good job of adapting the fairy tale and giving characters motivation.
The problems arose after I had finished the book. I felt that the character we got to know best was John, the older Faerie prince, and not Blanche or Rosamund, the supposed main characters. In fact, I felt that the sisters, despite their supposedly different personalities, were indistinguishable; Wrede never really gave either one their own point of view. And why did they look like they were 30 on the cover, when in the book they are 16 and 18? I also wish I knew more about the Widow Arden -- Wrede could have expanded on her background just a little bit more and given us a much more complete understanding of her character. Why did she fear being accused of witchcraft so much? (Yes, yes, she didn't want to be hanged. But her dread was so deep-seated. Had she seen someone hanged when she was young? Had her mother instilled it in her?) Who was her husband? What was his downfall? Why had it left them in ruins? The rules of magic were also hard to follow. Faerie magic was clarified well (in some ways it was the most intriguing part of the story), but not "mortal magic." Why did incantations work? Why were herbs sometimes magic and sometimes not? How did their potions work? The structure of the book was confusing at the beginning. We are barraged with five different viewpoints in the first chapter! The world and characters aren't familiar enough yet for that. Later on they are handled better. Finally, the Elizabethan English, while correct, was still distracting. Yes, it put me in the world of the characters; but then Wrede's modern English narration yanked me back out again. When the reader is constantly reminded of the words s/he's reading instead of the story, it's not very smooth.
For a better example of handling two cultures, multiple viewpoints, and a new twist on an old fairy tale, read Orson Scott Card's "Enchantment."