Blanca & Roja

Blanca & Roja

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dan...

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Title:Blanca & Roja
Author:Anna-Marie McLemore
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Blanca & Roja Reviews

  • Korrina  (OwlCrate)

    One of my new favourite books of all time. The writing in this is absolutely breathtaking. The characters are lovely and heartbreaking. The relationships are nuanced and dynamic. Seriously, it was amazing!

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    I’m crying !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ❤OH YES I LOVE THIS COVER

    🧡

    by Anna-Marie about this book was too good. I am shook.

    💛remember when my pre-review of this was "retelling of Snow White by a popular author oh yes" remember back before Anna-Marie McLemore ruined my life

    [

    October 2018.]

    I’m crying !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ❤️OH YES I LOVE THIS COVER

    🧡

    by Anna-Marie about this book was too good. I am shook.

    💛remember when my pre-review of this was "retelling of Snow White by a popular author oh yes" remember back before Anna-Marie McLemore ruined my life

    [

    October 2018.]

  • may ➹

    I didn’t think it was possible but now I really hate swans

  • Melanie

    is the best retelling I’ve ever read in my entire life. The way Anna-Marie McLemore reimagined

    is the best retelling I’ve ever read in my entire life. The way Anna-Marie McLemore reimagined

    was perfection in every sense of the word. This story is so beautiful and is a bright shining star in 2018 literature, and now one of my favorite books of all-time. No one weaves words and magic like Anna-Marie, and no other book this year has impacted me the way

    has. Please, friends, pick this masterpiece up upon release.

    This book stars two sisters, who were born into a family where each generation of women birth two girls, one of which gets taken away by swans after her fifteenth birthday. Many sisters form a rivalry, so that the swan will pick the other one, but these sisters want to trick the swans into not knowing which one to pick, therefore, hopefully picking neither. But this story follows four people, all feeling a little out of place in their own bodies; all for very different reasons.

    - Light skinned, fair hair, soft, sweet, and doing everything in her power to make sure the swans never take her sister away.

    - A transboy, who uses he/she and him/her pronouns, and currently hiding from her family who supports that she’s trans, but can’t understand why she would still like she/her pronouns.

    - Dark skinned, hair so red it looks black, hard, angry, and doing everything in her power to make sure the swans never take her away.

    - A boy who has a terrible home-life. He is constantly physically fighting with his cousin, being egged on by his entire family, and because of it he is suffering vision loss in his left eye.

    for physical abuse. Yearling wants to escape his family, their last name, and a secret that he knows, and he goes into the woods wanting to be something else. And the woods listen.

    And these four characters’ paths all cross with one another, and this becomes a story about self-discovery, unconditional love, and sacrifice. And two romances start, and they are both so equally breathtaking. All four of these characters are so expertly created that they all carved out little pieces of home in my heart. And they will live there forever.

    Like I said above, this is a reimagining of

    , but this is Anna-Marie’s ownvoices, Latinx, queer, magical realism version. And it is everything. Everything. This book emphasizes respecting people’s gender and sexuality journeys, because gender and sexuality can both be so very fluid. This book proves how easy, but how important, it is to ask and respect everyone’s pronouns. This book highlights how we don’t have to be what our families, our communities, our world want us to be and that we can break broken and toxic cycles. This book shows how everyone will handle pain, grief, and trauma differently and that it’s okay. This book reminds us how powerful kindness can be and how the bonds of family, both blood and found, can change every story.

    And this book really is a love letter to the bonds of siblings. And not to make this review about me, but I’m very open about 1.) my brother being my best friend and 2.) me being very white passing. But my brother isn’t white passing in the slightest. Black hair, dark eyes, dark golden skin all year long. I’ve had long-term interactions with people who never knew I was Filipino until they saw my brother. And I will always acknowledge my privilege of my biraciality being white passing, but I will always love and honor my family’s culture and heritage. And like Blanca, I would give, do, and say anything to protect my little brother. Okay, I don’t want to get too sappy. But this book really is about loving all the parts of yourself; not just the physical ones that everyone can see at a glance, or the ones that everyone expects you to love. This book was perfect, but certain aspects of Blanca and certain aspects of Roja just really tugged at all my heartstrings.

    Overall, no one writes and crafts like Anna-Marie McLemore. Every book I’ve read by her has rendered me speechless. I’ve never closed a book of hers that hasn’t left me with tears streaming down my face because of its beauty. Her words have healing powers, and her books remind me why reading is magical. And her author’s note is a five star read all on its own. I don’t know what the world did to deserve Anna-Marie McLemore, but we are all truly blessed to have her stories, and I’m forever grateful.

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  • destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    If you ever need a story that’s guaranteed to give you all the feels, break your heart, and look good doing it, Anna-Marie McLemore’s definitely the right woman for the job. If this tells you anything about how much faith I have in her writing, I don’t even

    the fairytales this book pulls from, yet it’s still been one of my most anticipated releases of 2018.

    Predictably enough, I was

    disappointed.

    If you ever need a story that’s guaranteed to give you all the feels, break your heart, and look good doing it, Anna-Marie McLemore’s definitely the right woman for the job. If this tells you anything about how much faith I have in her writing, I don’t even

    the fairytales this book pulls from, yet it’s still been one of my most anticipated releases of 2018.

    Predictably enough, I was

    disappointed.

    is such a gorgeously woven magical realism story, full of lovable characters that I can’t help wanting to protect, and an atmospheric setting that’s positively teleportative. Anna-Marie’s writing always immerses me so quickly, and this was no exception, as I literally was less than ten pages in when I first thought,

    One thing that I’d like to mention is the

    aspect to Anna-Marie’s style, and how I think readers will fare with that in general. I know the lyrical writing style caused a lot of my friends to dislike her last release,

    (which I adored, but art is subjective!). If that describes you, I think you’ll be happy to know that the magical realism facets of Anna-Marie’s storytelling felt substantially less prominent in this book than they did in

    In fact, if you’re looking for a book to introduce you to the MR subgenre, I think

    would be

    for it.

    Not only is the writing lovely, but these characters just won me over so effortlessly! Blanca and Roja, our title characters, are the most wonderful sisters. They care so much for one another and want so desperately to find a way to save one another from their family’s curse, that they’ve spent their entire lives trying to find a way to trick the swans so that they won’t take either girl. Their desperation and fierce protectiveness of one another will give you all the warm fuzzies, and even when they fight, their love for each other never leaves center stage.

    Besides the sisters, their love interests are precious, broken, soft boys that really stole the show for me. I loved the sisters, but I

    Page and Yearling. They aren’t living under the weight of a blood curse, they’re just trying to survive a world that they don’t feel like they fit perfectly into, for one reason or another. I can’t say much about Yearling without spoiling a mystery surrounding his character, but I will say that he broke my heart over and over. Page, on the other hand, is such a sweet, lovable little thing. He’s trans and nonbinary—modeled after Anna-Marie’s own husband!—and if you ask me, very few authors write queer characters quite as lovingly as Anna-Marie does.

    There is a

    of representation going on in this book, by the way. With Page, we obviously have this trans/nonbinary rep, but we always get this insight into how nuanced and specific his identity is to him, which is such a legitimate thing for a

    of people! With Yearling’s character, he’s recently become disabled (partially blind), and I loved how much time is spent focusing on his struggles to adapt, and how respectfully it’s handled in the book’s dialogue. There’s also an absolutely lovely f/f side couple that we spend a bit of time with later in the story, and I couldn’t write this review without mentioning the

    period rep that anyone who’s ever suffered from serious menstrual problems will relate so hard to, like I did.

    Perhaps the most prominent piece of the representation is the struggle of colorism and racism that these beautiful Latina sisters go through. Roja is brown-skinned with dark red hair, whereas Blanca is mostly white-passing with pale skin and golden hair. Their community has used the differences in their appearances to form assumptions about the girls and which sister the swans will choose, and it functions as a divide between them at times. It draws light to how much pain colorism can cause within a community when one girl is valued above another for having a white-passing appearance, and it’s heartbreaking, but necessary.

    Final thoughts:

    is an absolutely gorgeous fairytale retelling that everyone should read, especially if you’re a fan of magical realism to begin with, or if you’re looking for a fantasy story with endlessly diverse representation. The characters are a delight to read from, and you simply can’t help but become emotionally invested in the entire scenario from start to finish.

    for abuse, violence, racism/colorism, transphobia, homophobia

  • شيماء ✨

    McLemore's books always read like centuries-old fairytales that villagers with restless imagination would spin around a fire. I have a wild suspicion that she resides on a separate plane of existence and only decides to every now and then visit our realm to bless us with her presence and books, only to immediately retreat into the moors of her homelands to dance with the Old Gods.

    And I’m always all too happy to ignore the less poetic reality of the outside world and lose myself to her stories.

    McLemore's books always read like centuries-old fairytales that villagers with restless imagination would spin around a fire. I have a wild suspicion that she resides on a separate plane of existence and only decides to every now and then visit our realm to bless us with her presence and books, only to immediately retreat into the moors of her homelands to dance with the Old Gods.

    And I’m always all too happy to ignore the less poetic reality of the outside world and lose myself to her stories.

    McLemore centers

    on the del Cisne sisters who couldn’t have been more different—Blanca, light-skinned and golden-haired, and Roja, darker-skinned and with a heart that gleamed so red it showed in her hair. Blanca and Roja have always lived in a perpetual state of disaster preparedness: sisters in their family were offerings for the swans to choose from, and for many generations, they delighted in taking one of them and leaving the other.

    Blanca and Roja’s fear of this curse was its own entity, but in the furnace of their terror, their resolve kindled. They would do everything to keep each other safe. Until the señoras sought to snip the thread between them clean in half, offering Blanca to spare herself by earning the love of a blue-eyed bear-prince, Yearling. Yearling was rumored to have been stolen by the woods with his best friend, Page, only to be then given back. To protect themselves from the scolding eyes of the town and Yearling's poisonous family, they hide in the del Cisne house, where the del Cisne sisters are saddled with the decision of who to save and who to sacrifice.

    casts a cozy spell and is kissing-close to beginning with

    McLemore weaves in and out of multiple first-person narratives a brilliant reclamation of Snow-White and Rose-Red with a wonderful Latinx feel threaded throughout and mesmerizes once again with a gorgeously supple story at the thresholds of identity, family and history.

    She writes with an adept heart drawing feeling out of the words, and I wanted nothing more than to dwell in the honey-light of her writing. Hers are the kind of books you want to take in slowly, to wander through, to spend time in, for you'll likely find yourself the better for it. There is always the faintest glimmer of familiarity in them, as though you knew the story, but had forgotten it. It's breathtaking.

    There’s so much tenderness in this book, ineffable and aching, but with jagged edges too. This is a spellbinding tale of sisterly devotion in a world that searched for sparks of sibling rivalry to fan into a flame for the stage. The way Blanca and Roja sought solace in each other and found it, the way they had hidden in it, obfuscating reality and the fear they were powerless against, filled me with such a seethe of emotions.

    Each of one of them is embroiled in a struggle for acceptance in a world that fears and distrusts them for who they are. Anyone who has ever been excluded can understand what they felt—anyone who’s ever felt heavy and trudging and trapped down here on the surface of the world while everything is slicing at you from the harshest angles.

    gives in to the scalding, scarring ache inside her—that fire she’d been born with. She doesn’t want to glide through life, unfeeling, so she breaks from the grooves she’s worn down inside herself thinking she’d never be anything more than a last resort, a minor player in a drama about her, her story always a mere subplot woven around someone else’s.

    for whom people decided a life and made it an immutable truth that will govern her interaction with the world—because they couldn’t fathom that a woman is capable of multidimensionality, that she was more than one emotion, one trait, one story, but a million experiences and a million pieces. They held on to a perception of her that was caught in the thorn bush of the past but she broke free and tried on the sleeves and slacks of a new self however she sees fit.

    wasn’t a creature of anger or envy, though he grew up surrounded by people who were, and few will ever know the violence it took him to become this gentle and soft-hearted, and how he’d taken the jagged pieces and spliced them into elements that tiled and tessellated and fit themselves back together again. Yearling is also adjusting to his disability, something that McLemore has portrayed with so much attention and genuinity and I am so grateful for it. I honestly love Yearling so much I don’t want anyone to touch his golden soul with their soiled hands.

    is trans and uses both he and she pronouns. His queerness is never forgotten. Being genderqueer is simply who he is, and in those moments when others demanded he be different, Page cannot satisfy them, and be someone he is not. She doesn’t owe anything to people who were only committed to misunderstanding her. Page no longer stood there and accepted the weight of the ignorance of those who should’ve known better and tried harder, and hoped it left them lightened. But Page also learns not to always layer cynicism and distrust upon her life and think it futile to try to alter the pattern when fear had carved so deep a path. And as a queer person myself, I related so much to this: to hardening yourself by choosing to lock out everyone else—the ugliest stripe of self-preservation, born out of disappointment and weariness. It’s a lesson I’m still turning over in my head, trying to learn the shape of it.

    I also loved both the romantic and platonic relationships in this book—how Yearling and Page’s friendship was a blaze of love, how Page & Blanca’s, Roja & Yearling’s love came softly, enough to hold, not enough to hurt. Everything about them was so tender and heart-shaped that the entire book felt colored by it. But mostly, I love the way they were a testament that, in time of despair, all we can do is reach for each other and hope the edges of our hopelessness dissolves, even just a little.

    I think I will always be frustrated by my own inability to express how much I love McLemore’s books. How much I love her ability to not only dazzle—but to make you

    , your heart rising to so many possibilities.

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  • Emily May

    This is such

    On the surface,

    is a mash-up retelling of

    and

    , but the sheer amount of layers and thought that has gone into this novel makes it a whole number of other things, too. Peel back the familiar fairy tale aspects and underneath there is a moving tale of stereotypes, expectations an

    This is such

    On the surface,

    is a mash-up retelling of

    and

    , but the sheer amount of layers and thought that has gone into this novel makes it a whole number of other things, too. Peel back the familiar fairy tale aspects and underneath there is a moving tale of stereotypes, expectations and assumptions-- and how to shatter them.

    Blanca and Roja are the latest in the long line of del Cisne girls - a Latinx family who are always cursed to have two daughters, one who survives and one who is taken by the swans. No matter what they do, one sister is always taken. And Roja has always known it will be her. How can it not be? With her fiery red hair and darker skin, she looks like the wicked girl, the witch, the fairy tale villain from all the stories.

    Roja and fair-haired Blanca try to prevent either one meeting their fate. As they attempt to fight the curse (and the swans), another story takes place. A cygnet and a bear who the sisters take in and care for turn out to be two missing local boys.

    The bear, Yearling, is a rich white boy from an abusive family, and the cygnet, Page, is a trans boy from a family of apple farmers. Two romances develop slowly through evocative description, with

    . The romantic themes move alongside family drama, magical prophecy and a desperate fight to avoid destiny.

    And there's more than a little viciousness:

    At its heart, though, it's a book about how you can read someone completely wrong. You can see someone's appearance or wealth or assigned gender and quickly make incorrect assumptions based on that.

    McLemore also uses her trademark flowery prose for some thoughtful meditations on colour and how it is perceived - both in how Snow White and Rose Red are viewed by others, but also the wider perceived relationship between “fair” and “good” and “dark” and “evil”.

    And it's wrong, of course, in case you couldn't guess. It's an assumption shattering, rule-breaking kinda read. Highly recommended.

    CW: Abuse; transphobia/misgendering.

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  • Hamad

    This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found

    🌟 Let me just point again the fact that the cover of this book has not only 1 swan but 2 swans!! (bonus points for Elysia for discovering the second swan)!!

    🌟 This is my third time reading a Magical realism book without knowing so. I think that is magical xD. I found out the hard way that this genre is just not for me. I pr

    This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found

    🌟 Let me just point again the fact that the cover of this book has not only 1 swan but 2 swans!! (bonus points for Elysia for discovering the second swan)!!

    🌟 This is my third time reading a Magical realism book without knowing so. I think that is magical xD. I found out the hard way that this genre is just not for me. I prefer to go to books these days without knowing much. I read the synopsis of this book and I liked it and that was that. I got the book and read it. I just think magical realism don’t have good world buildings, obviously they are set in the real world but the magical laws are never explained and that seems like a shortcut for me and it leaves me always with many questions and wanting more. This book was no different!

    🌟 The writing was good, I really loved the introduction and gave my friend the book while we were together so he can read it and he said it was great! So my problem was not mainly with the writing style.

    🌟 My problem was more about the characters, there were 4 different POVs and I think it would have been better if it was only Blanca and Roja. The characters sounded the same and I needed to go back to the beginning of chapters to see who the POV was from.

    🌟 The plot was kind of OK for me but I wanted more and I needed to understand more things. I just have this problem with all the books of this kind!

    🌟 Summary: A typical Magical Realism book with good writing and nice story. The magical laws and characters just fell short for me and was sort of boring. It is a kind of me rather than the book problem.

    🌟 Prescription: for fans of Magical realism books only!

  • ✨    jamieson   ✨

    Beyond shocked to learn the cover is not in fact a rose and is actually two swans entwined

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