Books 8/17/04

I finished the 15th Annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and followed it up with Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, another in the adult fairy tale series I wrote about last post. Both were enjoyable, with a general high quality to the stories. Ruby Slippers had a number of really good stories, my favorites being Masterpiece by Garry Kilworth (a modern Rumplestiltskin story set in the art world), The Huntsman’s Story by Milbre Burch (a story written in response to the Polly Klass abduction and murder), and Hansel and Grettel by Grahan Wilson (wherein hip Hansel and Grettel find an entirely different kind of candy house).

As I’m apparently on a complete fairy tale kick, I also read Little Red Riding Hood in the Big Bad City. I only picked it up because it was edited by Martin H. Greenburg, I didn’t know any of the authors listed and the cover was kind of dumb, but am I glad I did! It’s a collection of updated fairy tales- the characters and events are the ones we know, set in the current day. The stories range from tongue in cheek to downright powerful, and as I read them I was struck by the power these old stories have to transcend time and societal differences to still have relevance and resonance today.
All of the fairy tales chosen translated to modern day really well, which I think speaks to the universality of their underlying themes. Whether in the city or the woods, there is always innocence to be lost or stolen, villans in all shapes, heroes in the making. The measure to which they were updated was impressive, each element of the stories was considered and the result is excellent modern fairy tales.
I was actually almost moved to tears by two of the stories. I’m not exactly sure which fairy tale Exterminary by Patricia Lee Macomber is based on, but it has elements of stories about the fairy folk as well as the fable about the mouse and the lion. In it, two little abused boys capture what they think is a lightning bug and then have to decide what to do when they find out it isn’t. Their decision has huge consequences. The descriptions of the boys reactions to their abuse and their protectiveness of each other was heartbreaking, and the end of the story is beautifully written. The Rose Garden by Michelle West is without doubt the best of the bunch and a tearjerker to boot, but an honest tearjerker, not a manipulative one. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but in this version Beauty is a jaded homeless girl who gets caught as she steals the Beast’s prize rose to bring to her dying friend. (The Beast has been cursed by a witch to live forever, and the longer he lives the more human he looks, but he’s still beastly inside.) It’s only as the Beast brings them both into his home so that the old woman can live her last days near a garden that the spell over his heart begins to break, as both he and Cassie learn to trust and love each other. The emotions in the story are honest and raw, and it makes the end of the story touching rather than cloying. Out of all of the grown-up fairy tale books I’ve read, I recommend this one most highly.

Current total: 81
Just finished: Little Red Riding Hood in the Big Bad City, ed. by Martin H. Greenberg & John Helfers
Next Up: Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by, I can only assume, Lemony Snicket himself

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