Overall, the anthology is very good. Of course, as in any anthology, there were stories I liked better than others but the quality of all of them was very high. Datlow as well as Windling provide introductions and there’s an appendix of recommended reading, which is pretty awesome. If you like fairy tale retellings, fantasy/SciFi and a little bit of horror, you will love this book.
As usual, I’ll go through the stories one by one.
White as Snow: Fairy Tales and Fantasy (Terri Windling)
Terri Windling gives us an overview about the history of fairy tales, some changes that were made to them over time and how they relate to fantasy.
Some people skip forewords when reading books and in this case they really shouldn’t. Terri Windling gives us a concise and fascinating look at fairy tales and their evolution.
Red as Blood: Fairy Tales and Horror (Ellen Datlow)
Ellen Datlow relates fairy tales to horror and her own experience of them.
Datlow’s foreword is much more personal than Windling’s but no less interesting. Taking a look at how un-childish fairy tales are and how they shape the horror culture around us, this foreword is another essential part of the book.
Like a Red, Red Rose (Susan Wade)
A woman and her daughter live alone in a beautiful garden where they produce potions for the villagers but are generally regarded as outcasts.
Like a Red, Red Rose is actually not a retelling of a specific fairy tale but rahter a reiteration of known motifs in fairy tales. As a hommage to several fairy tales, it works very well.
The Moon Is Drowning While I Sleep (Charles de Lint)
The Moon Is Drowning While I Sleep is a retelling of the fairy tale The Dead Moon. It is set in de Lint’s town of Newford.
I loved this story. It’s poetic, it’s beautiful and very well written. Here’s the first part which tells you everything you need to know:
Once upon a time there was what there was, and if nothing had happened there would be nothing to tell.
The Frog Prince (Gahan Wilson)
The Frog Prince is a retelling of, surprisingly, The Frog Prince. It’s a very modern take: It depicts a therapy session of Frog.
There were some details I liked in this story, but mostly I found it none too memorable.
Stalking Beans (Nancy Kress)
Stalking Beans is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. In this version, Jack is bitter and is exposed as the asshole he is.
There was nothing qualitatively wrong with this story but I really didn’t like it. Probably because Jack was that exposed… the story only works if you kinda care for Jack, imo.
Snow-Drop (Tanith Lee)
Snow-Drop is a futuristic take on Snow White as seen from the stepmother’s perspective.
This story was fascinating. To retell the story from the stepmother’s view was a stroke of genius and the futuristic setting was awesome. It really put Tanith Lee high up on my to-read list.
Little Red (Wendy Wheeler)
Little Red transplants Little Red Riding Hood into a modern, urban setting with all its chilling consequences.
Wendy Wheeler’s story was probably the most terrifying of them all. Taking a Lolita approach to the whole thing and letting the story be told by the perpetrator was outright chilling.
I Shall Do Thee Mischief in the Wood (Kathe Koja)
This story is another take on Little Red Riding Hood, but this one historical.
In this version, as in the one before, there’s no traipsing around the images used in the original: Little Red Riding Hood is a story about a young girl getting raped by a guy who thinks it’s his right to do just that. But in this case, the girl gets the better of the guy.
The Root of the Matter (Gregory Frost)
The Root of the Matter is a retelling of Rapunzel. It is told from the three point of views of Rapunzel, her “mother” and the prince.
I liked the three different views but I didn’t like the morale of the story: that the cruelty of the “mother” was necessary so that the characters of Rapunzel and the prince were formed in a way that they could be together.
The Princess in the Tower (Elizabeth A. Lynn)
Another take on Rapunzel, The Princess in the Tower is more of a funny story than the dark “The Root of the Matter”. But I also thought it rather annoying. The joke is that it’s set in Italy somewhere in a town, where it’s considered beautiful to be fat and poor Rapunzel unfortunately isn’t. And I don’t see much humour in that and it gets old pretty fast.
Persimmon (Harvey Jacobs)
Persimmon is a retelling of Thumbelina.
In the description of the story in the book, the editors say that Harvey Jacobs’ stuff is “peculiar”, and peculiar it is. I don’t think that I can give an in any way more qualified comment than that.
Little Poucet (Steve Rasnic Tem)
Little Poucet is a retelling of Little Poucet or Hop o’ My Thumb.
It’s a pretty disgusting story and Tem doesn’t manage to make it scary – it remains disgusting. I really didn’t like it.
The Changelings (Melanie Tem)
The Changelings is based on scandinavic stories of changelings and forest trolls. It’s about a mother who believes her daughter and her daughter’s best friend have been swapped and subsequently suffers a mental breakdown.
I liked the story. It’s an intelligent examination of a mother-daughter relationship and looks at something that’s usually not discussed: That a mother could possibly not like her own child.
The Springfield Swans (Caroline Stevermer and Ryan Edmonds)
The Springfield Swans is a retelling of The Wild Swans, set on a baseball diamond, basically.
This story is sweet, if a little inconsequential.
The Troll Bridge is a retelling of the story Three Billy Goats Gruff, even if rather far from the original.
I think, on re-reading I actually liked this story even better. It has a sweet sense of humour, a good ending and is well written.
A Sound, Like Angels Singing (Leonard Rysdyk)
I won’t tell you what story this is a retelling of. Should you read this story, it would be completely spoiled otherwise.
It’s an interesting story. Not one I liked a whole lot, but I loved reading it.
Puss (Esther M. Friesner)
Puss is a very dark take on Puss in Boots, with a tormented main character.
I really loved this story. It’s dark, chilling and uncomfortable but it’s really good.
The Glass Casket (Jack Dann)
The Glass Casket is based on The Glass Coffin, but set in Renaissance Italy and a kind of fantastic alternate history story about Pico della Mirandola.
I don’t know anything about Pico della Mirandola, so I’m not really sure why Dann chose him as his main character. Neither do I know much about Renaissance Italy, nor do I care a whole lot. Maybe that’s why this story left me pretty cold.
Knives (Jane Yolen)
Knives is a take on Cinderella. It’s a poem, not a short story.
I liked it. It has a good rhythm and a nice flow. It’s deep, but it also has sense of humour. Very enjoyable.
The Snow Queen (Patricia A. McKillip)
To everyone’s surprise, this story is a retelling of The Snow Queen.
The original Snow Queen might be my most favouritest fairy tale ever, so McKillip does not have an easy task to make me like her story as every change made makes it less like the original and the original is pretty much perfect. So it’s no surprise that I didn’t like this story. But nevertheless I have to say that it’s a well written, good story.
Breadcrumbs and Stones (Lisa Goldstein)
Breadcrumbs and Stones is a kind of retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Two sisters examine their relationships with their mother as she’s dying, and also take a look at the history of their family during WW II.
It was a sad and thoughtful story and one I really liked. It’s hard to capture in a few short sentences, so I’ll just recommend that you read it.