A Maiden of Snakes

Jane McGarry
Young Adult

Marchioness Lamberico wants nothing more than to conceive a child, but after three years of trying, she still finds herself without child. In desperation, she follows rumors to seek the help of Imelda, a powerful witch who agrees to help – with a caution that there will be consequences. When the baby girl is born with a snake wrapped around her neck, the Marchioness is very frightened. But all is forgotten as the snake disappears and the baby, Biancabella, leads a blessed life. Biancabella and the snake, her twin sister Samaritana, are reunited in secret and meet for years, secretly training and growing their bond and gifts. When Biancabella meets and falls in love with the King of Naples, everything changes as Samaritana feels betrayed. When the sisters are separated, misfortune – rather than blessings – befall them. Until they can trust their bond again, they will constantly face trials and hardships.


This is a retelling of an Italian fairytale steeped in old Italy and fantasy. Marchioness Lamberico in the beginning is easy to relate to, and her struggles with decisions are well written and developed. However, when Biancabella enters as the main character, she is very naïve, blinded by her goodness. Her twin sister, the snake, Samaritana, is very different. Her mission has always been to protect her sister, but Samaritana is jealous and controlling. The character development of the sisters is lacking in this fairytale. This is not a romantic love story, but a story of the love between two sisters. With more attention to the characters’ growth, this story could have evolved into a great tale of love and redemption. 


Cara Cieslak