Fairy tales. New ones.

Sometimes I forget how much I love reworkings of fairy tales. How crazy is that?

Ever since my mother (I think?) gave me a lovely little collection of twisted fairy tales – I have no idea what it was called, whether they were all by the same person, or whatever – I have been passionate about people taking well worn stories and twisting them. Sometimes slightly, sometimes extremely. But, it turns out, I forget this. And then I read Troll’s Eye View, and I remember… because sometimes the villain is absolutely the most interesting character, and sometimes they’re not actually a villain if you look at them a certain way. And I read To Spin a Darker Stair, and the prose is wondrous and the stories gripping.

But then I forget. And I have something like Paula Guran’s anthology Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales sitting there waiting… waiting… waiting to be read, and when I finally get around to reading the first one I think, why have I been waiting so long?

Maybe having written this, I am less likely to forget in future. I can hope.

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I enjoyed every story in this anthology; some more than most, but there wasn’t a one that I flicked through impatiently. There’s a great range of stories. Yoon Ha Lee, whom I’m just discovering, brings a Korean-inspired story in “The Coin of Heart’s Desire” that fits into the “be careful what you wish for” zone; Cinda Williams Chima brings native American folklore into a “gritty industrial landscape” a little bit like Charles de Lint. Angela Slatter turns a princess into a bird in a story of revenge, while Priya Sharma, in “Egg,” wonders about all those stories where all the woman wants is a child…  There are  retellings, too: Genevieve Valentine plays with “The Snow Queen,” Jane Yolen and Ekaterina Sedia take “Sleeping Beauty” in two completely different directions (Sedia does it better, I think); Tanith Lee uses the one about the dancing princesses. Richard Bowes brings a sardonic Puss in Boots into the world of social media and Caitlin R Kiernan takes Little Red Riding Hood into space. Cory Skerry smashes “Beauty and the Beast” and AC Wise makes “The Six Swans” a rather darker story about desire and selfishness. Perhaps most profound is Erzebet Yellowboy, whose story means I will never, ever view the (step)mother in Snow White in the same way again.

This is a glorious anthology – one that you could sit down and read cover to cover, or dip in and out of.

You can get Once Upon a Time from Fishpond.

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