In this collection, six modern fantasy writers take on fairytales of centuries past, re-imagining characters, locations, and timings to create entirely new stories.
From ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to less commonly revisited tales such as ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’, all six writers make the stories unmistakably theirs. Some of these new incarnations work better than others, but a joy of the collection is that some are clever retellings with the essence of the original, whereas some have lost most of the original tale but create entirely new stories from the inspiration. ‘Moth’s Tale’ by Isobelle Carmody, who also co-edited the collection, is a retelling of ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ from the poor girl’s point of view, but with added depth and additional characters that allows for motives to be explored. ‘One Window’, however, changes the tin soldiers into imprisoned boys with an entirely different version of the ballerina.
This is a strength of most of the stories; the characters are taken from their two dimensional presentations of ‘princess’ or ‘villain’ from older stories, and reimagined as genuine, rounded characters with hopes and fears. In Richard Harland’s ‘Heart of the Beast’ we find out why the beast really became the way he was, and in ‘Eternity’ the children of ‘The Snow Queen’ are recast as teenagers who get involved with the wrong crowd. Some of these stories are undeniably violent. Each author has added an explanation as to why they chose their tale and method of adaptation.
The strongest stories are those that take the essence of the story and create something new; those that stick too closely to the original risk seeming a little unsubtle, particularly if fairy tale language is repeatedly placed in modern settings. Overall however, this is a fabulous way to make fairytales relevant and exciting for a teen reader – they have even more bite than the originals.