Book Review – The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

The Sleeper and the Spindle is a retelling of both Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty. Throughout the land a sleeping spell is spreading, caused by the sleeping girl in the tower of a castle in the next kingdom. The queen of this kingdom (Snow White) and her three dwarf friends must find a way into the sleeping princess’ castle and break the curse.

This isn’t my favorite retelling of either of these two fairy tales, nor is it my favorite Neil Gaiman but it was a fun story nonetheless. The storytelling style reminded me a lot of Susanna Clarke’s writing, and she does fantastic fairy tale retellings.
This story is not that character driven, unfortunately. We don’t get a lot of character from the queen, but we do learn of her relationship with her magical stepmother, and how she used this to overcome another magical woman seeking adoration and power. I thought that was a clever way of handling the hero/villain trope.

There isn’t much else to say about the story itself. It’s a simple story, and a great one for kids who want different versions of their classic fairy tales.

The illustrations by Chris Riddell are absolutely stunning, however, and I think that people of all ages should pick up this book if only for the art.

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Book Review – Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I had to pick a word to describe Through the Woods it would be gorgeous. I am always looking for new fairy tale and folklore retellings with horrific twists, and this gorgeous book did not at all disappoint. Through the Woods consists of seven tales, each one encapsulating some fear that we all see lurking in the heart of fairy tales.

The first tale simply illustrates the fear of what could be hiding under the bed.
The second, a sort of retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, illustrates the harshness of winter and the fear of possibly losing one’s family.

The third could be a retelling of any number of tales, including Bluebeard, The Fall of the House of Usher and the Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, and vampire stories. The fear expressed here is the uncertainty of an arranged marriage – and of course the odd fear of the dead wife coming back for vengeance.

The fourth shows a man’s fear when a seemingly perfect copy of his brother comes back from the dead. Invasion of the body snatchers? Perhaps!

The fifth story is all about ghosts and spiritualism, both the reality and fears that come with it. A young woman who pretends to commune with ghosts. Her friend who can actually see ghosts. Who is more afraid?

The sixth story is similar to the fourth in body-snatching, albeit a bit more gruesome. The creatures featured in this story are what I would associate to the term “skin-walkers.” The fear here is, again, losing one’s family – and perhaps even oneself – and not being able to trust those around you.

he last story, which is not really a story, more of a moral, reiterates one of the big themes of all the stories in this book: getting lost in the woods, and either coming out different, or being eaten by the wolf.

I read this book so quickly, that’s how good the stories were – I didn’t want to put them down for a moment. And Carroll’s illustrations and art in this book had me absolutely entranced. I honestly may go back and just look at the art. It sets the moods of each story so well, readers will be mesmerized and enchanted, just as one would venturing into the strange woods that star in each story. I would love to see Carroll create more tales like this. It is the perfect bedtime story, and the perfect midwinter read.
I recommend Through the Woods to those who love fairy tale and folklore, who want to explore fears a bit, and who want to get lost in a good and gorgeous book.

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Book Review – The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan

The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales

The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kirsty Logan’s fairytales are at the same time familiar and also completely raw and new. Some familiar stories are told through the opposite perspective. Some new stories are familiar in the ways that emotions can only ever be.
The style reminds me a bit of Francesca Lia Block’s Rose and the Beast, though Logan’s fairytales are much more relatable. They feel like they could be real, even though the reader knows that the threshold is opaque.

I recommend this collection to those who want a fairytale that ends in unexpected ways.

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Book Review: The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am always a lover of fairytale/folktale retellings, especially when the author has decided to focus on the darker, perhaps hidden aspects of the tale. This is how Mallory Ortberg has retold tales in The Merry Spinster. What is really interesting is how Ortberg has chosen to portray human behavior in the characters of these tales, which I find to be the most uneasy and horrifying aspect.

The tales he has written include those inspired by the well-known tales such as Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and various other tales from the Grimms et al. However, Ortberg has included other well-known stories that do not necessarily fall under the cannon of fairytales we all know, or are else rather obscure. My favorite of these that he has included under this category is The Daemon Lover, which I came to love due to Shirley Jackson, to whom Ortberg has a similar writing style, thereby making me personally love The Merry Spinster all the more. Others include The Velveteen Rabbit, Frog and Toad, and various biblical references. The fact that Ortberg has chosen these other stories instead of just the usual cannon of fairytales makes him quite unique as an author and a storyteller, and I would love to see what other stories he can make into tales of horror.

The only story that really did not meet my expectations was “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad”, based on The Wind in the Willows. I felt like the story could be longer, with a bit more explanation, but that simply could mean that this particular tale is not for me. Nonetheless I found it interesting and not out of sync with the rest of the book.

I recommend this collection of stories to anyone who likes a good, twisted fairytale, and to those who, like me, are big fans of Shirley Jackson’s tales of everyday horror.

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