Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy, Short Stories
Call number: J Troll’s (currently in new books)
I have a weakness for retold fairy tales and for short stories, so this collection of fairy tales told from the villains’ point of view was a must-read for me. Also, Datlow and Windling consistently helm the best anthologies out there, for kids and adults, and I read every one I can get my hands on. This collection has 15 stories by well-known fantasy authors for children and adults, almost all of which I’ve read at least something earlier, whether it be a short story or two or a novel or two, and it makes for quite the collection. Like all anthologies, there are a few weak stories, or maybe I should say a few stories I didn’t enjoy as much as the others, and a few stories that really stood out.
For me, the stand-outs are almost always the dark stories, for I am a twisted soul, and they leave more of an impact on me. My other stand-out story type is superbly done comedies. (For example, in Deborah Noye’s collection Gothic: Ten Original Dark Tales, my two favorite stories are MT Anderson’s marvelously disturbing “Watch and Wake” and Neil Gaiman’s hilarious parody of gothic conventions, “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire”.) So, of course, my favorite stories from this collection are Holly Black’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ and Kelly Link’s “The Cinderella Game”, both very dark, creepy stories with endings that play with the “happily ever after” convention. In “the Boy Who Cried Wolf”, the narrator learns about a mysterious flower that turns those who sniff its scent into wolves who then devour whoever is closest, and he has to make some tough choices when he and his family land their boat on an island that appears to be covered with the flowers. In “The Cinderella Game”, Peter babysits his new, somewhat disturbed, step-sister (he appears somewhat disturbed as well) and things get weird when he agrees to play a game of Cinderella, in which the lines between the good Cinderella and the evil step-sister are blurred.
There are a lot of other great stories, including Peter Beagle’s funny “Up the Down Beanstalk”, which retells “Jack in the Beanstalk” from the point of view of the giant’s wife (I love how matter-of-fact she is about their diet), Midori Snyder’s rather haunting retelling of “Molly Whuppie”, called “Molly”, and Delia Sherman’s “Wizard’s Apprentice”, which follows a much-abused boy on his path to becoming the apprentice to an Evil Wizard who turns out not to be so evil after all.
One of the things I love about anthologies is that everyone’s favorites are different, so if you read this review and then check out the book, be sure to tell me what your favorites are, too!