Spinning a darker stair (review)

Firstly: oh my goodness look how CUTE this is! Seriously, this itty bitty 50-odd page bookling is so cute. Does this count as a chapbook? I don’t know the official definition of chapbook, but part of me thinks this should be one, while part of me thinks no! Chaps won’t read this! This is a ladybook, or a dreamerbook, or something.

Yes, well. Anyway.

This delightful product, whatever it is, comprises two short stories that riff off different fairy tales. Catherynne M Valente’s “A Delicate Architecture” is the first, and I know I read it in Troll’s Eye View but my memory is bad enough that I had forgotten the kinks in the tale. Which was good and bad, since it got to break my heart all over again. This is Valente at her best, spinning an impossible and impossibly beautiful story about a girl and her confectioner father and the dark dark things that can be done in the name of hunger (in all its many variations). This story is complemented by Faith Mudge and “Oracle’s Tower.” While it wasn’t clear to me which fairy tale was being meddled with by Valente until very near the end, it’s clear relatively early on who Mudge is playing with. This does not, of course, prevent the story from working in dark and sometimes sinister ways. This is not a nice story. It is very clever, though, and very nicely told.

Both of the stories are given that extra something by the illustrations of Kathleen Jennings.
The front and back covers are hers, and within there are four more pictures of the women featured in the stories. They’re line sketches (… I am no artist, so forgive me if I get the terminology wrong), and they are delightful and beautiful and add a great deal to the overall feel of the package.

Also? my copy came wrapped as a present. That definitely adds to its specialness.

Full disclosure: I am friends with Tehani Wessely, owner/editor of Fablecroft (the publishing house responsible for this book).

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