Lips Touch: Three Times, by Laini Taylor

Author: Laini Taylor
Illustrator: Jim Di Bartolo
Genre: YA Fantasy / Short stories
Call number: Y Taylor
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (really liked it)

This collection of three illustrated dark fairy tales makes for beautiful reading. All three stories — “Goblin Fruit”; “Spicy Little Curses Such as These”; and “Hatchling” — revolve around a magical, life-altering (perhaps soul-altering?) kiss, but none have the uncomplicated, “happily-ever-after” ending that I worried they might have before I opened the book.

First, let me say that it was the illustrations that drew me to this book. They are incredibly eye-catching, detailed, and delicate. I think they are a mix of pen and ink drawings with watercolor washes and possibly more media as well (it’s so hard to tell these days, and I can’t find a place where he details how he created the artwork on his web site). What I love about them are the monochromatic washes and pale colors mixed with one or two super bright images, like the red lips and ice blue eyes on the cover, for example. Each story is preceded by a set of images that intrigued me — how will these images play out in the story to follow? what do they mean? — and once I finished a story, I was inspired to pore back over the images with that knowledge. The romantic, moody artwork is a perfect compliment to the stories.

The stories themselves are written in sumptuous prose (I don’t get to say that all too often), as delicious and fulfilling as your best meal ever, prose that is elaborate when it needs to be and simple when it doesn’t. The stories have a cadence to them that I only ever associate with tales spoken aloud. They also don’t all go in the direction you initially expect, so they have some surprises.

Readers who loved The Hollow Kingdom by Clare Dunkel (and if you haven’t read that and you love strong heroines in dark fairy tales, go find it now) will be sucked into this collection, and I’m sure there are other excellent read-alike story collections, too, like Troll’s Eye View, by the estimable Datlow and Windling, a collection of fairy tale re-tellings from the POV of the villains.

No spoilers

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Troll’s Eye View, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

trollPublisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy, Short Stories
Pages: 200
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.

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