melissajm: Cover for Between Worlds, by Melissa Mead, from Double Dragon Publishing (Default)
Thanks to Ellen Datlow for letting me be one of the blog reviewers for this book. I’ve never written a book review before, but I love fairy tales and variations on them. These are more properly Faerie Tales, because they’re not about fragile pastel creatures, but Faerie as JRR Tolkien describes it. If you don’t recognize the reference, the Introduction will remind you. These are stories about the blood on the spindle, the bindings of a gilded stranger’s kiss, the choices made at crossroads. Remember this, when you enter the dark wood.

“Words Like Pale Stones,” by Nancy Kress
The anthology starts off with a heroine who’s as far from delicate and helpless as you can imagine. I’m not sure I agree with this story’s assumption about art, but you’ve got to admire the heroine’s boldness in the face of depravity, and feel sympathy for the “rat boy.”

“Stronger Than Time,” by Patricia C. Wrede
This one may have been my favorite. Maybe it’s because I’m a hopeless romantic. The choice of narrator was perfect. The story’s got the sense of wonder that a good fantasy should have, but it’s real and homey and heartbreaking, too.

“Sommnus’s Fair Maid” by Ann Downer
I do so like the “fairy godmother.” For proper effect, this story should be read while ensconced in a comfy chair by the fire on a dreary afternoon, with a cup of tea to hand. Be ready to chuckle. Decorously, of course.

“The Frog King, or Iron Henry,” by Daniel Quinn
I’ve had nightmares that felt like this. You know, the kind where you’re running and running from something dark and horrible and can’t wake up…

“Near-Beauty,” by M. E. Beckett
What DO you do when you find a three-foot cane toad in your shower? In a SF story like this…ahem…just about anything. Especially if the “toad” sings an enchanting “Phantom of the Opera.” And Amanda is not the type of heroine to stay locked in a tower.

“Ogre,” by Michael Kandel
Speaking of theaters… the one in this story is decidedly off-Broadway. I hadn’t read “The Yellow Dwarf” before this, but- goodness, the things that go on backstage!

“Can’t Catch Me,” by Michael Cadnum
This one’s all about the voice. And that gingerbread dude’s one tough cookie. I suspect that “Catcher In The Rye” fans will like it.

“Journeybread Recipe,” by Lawrence Schimel
I don’t know much about poetry, but this was kind of like “Into the Woods” in a poem. I liked it.

“The Brown Bear of Norway,” by Isabel Cole
I didn’t know the original fairy tale to this one. It reminded me of “Cupid and Psyche,” though. And it has a sweet, sad ending.

“The Goose Girl,” by Tim Wynne-Jones
I’ve always thought the Goose Girl of the original tale was a dull excuse for a heroine, but this isn’t that Goose Girl! And it’s not really her story, which makes it even more interesting.

“Tattercoats,” by Midori Snyder
I’m of two minds about this one, because I don’t like explicit sex scenes. On the other hand, the whole story was so sensual and vivid it was impossible not to enjoy it. The best part, for me, was that the characters weren’t Good and Evil, but real people living in real, finite time.

“Granny Rumple,” by Jane Yolen
This isn’t a story. It’s a stark, unflinching reminder of what evil really is. I don’t think I have a right to pick it apart. Just read it, appreciate it, and pray that some monsters stay slain-or at least driven back.

“The Sawing Boys,” by Howard Waldrop
If you’ve got the soundtrack to “Guys and Dolls” around the house, it’ll make a good backdrop to this one. I think Mr. Waldrop was channeling Damon Runyon. It’s as light as the previous story was dark, and I got a chuckle out of the “sawing boys’” names.

“Godson,” by Roger Zelazny Another one I liked as lot. The introduction to this story says that telling the name of the original fairy tale would give too much away. That was puzzling, since to me it was clear from the first page, but that’s all right. It had a nice balance of humor and depth, and some likeable characters. A fun story.

“Ashputtle,” by Peter Straub
Ok, this was disturbing. Deeply disturbing. But when you think about it, could a “Cinderella” really go on to Happily Ever After untouched and unscarred?

“Silver and Gold,” by Ellen Steiber
Again, I’m no poet, but I like the bit about disposing of your enemies but being careful not to harm the good in them.

“Sweet Bruising Skin,” by Storm Constantine
This is a long story, so it’s got the space for detailed worldbuilding and some interesting twists on the workings of evil queens.

“The Black Swan,” by Susan Wade
At first I was afraid that this story was going to end the anthology on a completely tragic note. It doesn’t quite, but it is a tragic, heartbreaking story. A fittingly somber ending.

And, because I’m the sort of obsessive person who devours books whole, there’s some interesting-sounding Recommended Reading in the back, too.

Read and enjoy! I did.

July 2016

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