Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.
Okay, this isn’t the type of thing I normally pick up. It isn’t because of the fairy tale motif; I mean really have you seen my shelves? It’s more that erotica or whatever you want to call featuring same gender partners really doesn’t do it for me. My reaction is really, oh that’s nice or at least it’s better written than Anita Blake porn. Truth be told, 50 Shades of Grey didn’t do it for me either.
But enough about me. I just wanted you to know that because if you are the type who read queer erotica I have no frame of reference really for this collection, so you might want to look at a review that does.
Let me say, however, I am glad I caved into whatever moved to request this book via Netgalley and what or whoever decried I should get approved.
But, I can hear you say, you didn’t give these five stars, so why do you say that?
Well, it’s true, I didn’t give it five stars, but it is a short story collection so I have to judge it on the whole, and the erotica bits weren’t my cuppa.
This collection contains one of the best, if not the best, retelling of the Snow Queen I have ever read. Hands down. “Heartless” by Veronica Wilde retells the story using lesbian lovers and with an emphasis on the Snow Queen herself. Seriously, it is absolutely stunning in its beauty. It is worth the price of the book alone. Honestly, it is one of the best short stories I have read in a long time, and it haunts you.
HCA would be proud.
Andi Marquette’s “Red” – a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood – is my second favorite, a close runner up - and hearkens in many ways to Angela Carter’s “In the Company of Wolves”. Quite frankly, both “Red” and “Heartless” deserve to appear in any Best of Collections that come out. They are both brilliant.
There are some humorous pieces, including a few that focus on the evil queens and stepmothers from the tales. There are two good, solid good, beanstalk tales. The most enjoyable thing about the book is how some authors play or showcase either homophobia or the use of tropes. This is most obvious in the beanstalk stories. The first “Beanstalk” by Clifford Henderson plays on the idea of the world above and the world below being different. One more conservative and threatening; the other more open. The second story involving Jack, “The Beanstalk Revisited”, inverts and plays with the evil stepmother trope and appearance. It isn’t as strong as “Red” or “Heartless” but it is an enjoyable story nonetheless.
The stories fulfill the traditional purpose of the fairy tale - to teach and to discuss or showcase topics that are perhaps too sensitive (less so today) to deal directly with. This collection does that very well, making it a worthy heir to the fairy tale tradition.