Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe

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(Fairy Tales) A collection of traditional fairytales recast to different times, places, and genres. (109,956 words; Time: 6h:06m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Excellent Concept, Beautifully Executed

We reviewed Seasons of Glass and Iron, by Amal El-Mohtar when it was reprinted in Uncanny.

"The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales," edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe, published on by .

Starlit Wonders

Each story in The Starlit Wood takes its inspiration from a classical fairy tale, such as Rumplestilskin, Sleeping Beauty, or the Little Match Girl, but changes the time, place, or genre--and often changes the outcome too. These stories are well above average. Out of 18 stories, we recommended 5 (average would be 3) and recommended against 4 (average would be 6).

Twelve of the fairy tales (eight from the Brothers Grimm and four from Hans Christian Andersen) are likely to be familiar to almost all readers. The other six (four from other European sources, one Vietnamese, and one Arabian) are likely to be new. Since part of the fun is guessing which fairy tale a story draws from, we've put that information inside the hidden part of our reviews, together with links to online copies of the original fairy tales (where possible).

The stories take place in America (modern and Old West), medieval Europe, a galactic empire, a post-human future, and a fantasy world. The genres include Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, and at least two that are hard to classify.

A number of the three-star stories were well-written, but the authors couldn't resist the temptation to soften the fairy tales (which often have horrible outcomes) with the effect of making the heroes' victories come too easily to be completely satisfying.

Specially Recommended

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik, tells how a young Jewish Russian girl takes up the family moneylending business with great success until a creature from Faery insists on doing business with her.


The Briar and the Rose, by Marjorie M. Liu, involves a bodyguard and the girl she loves who is trapped in such a way that it's very difficult to find a way to set her free.

Penny for a Match, Mister?, by Garth Nix, tells a fascinating story about a "Marshal-Warden" who has authority "on both sides of The Line" in a magical Old West where bad things can cross into our world when murder is done under a full moon.

In Reflected, by Kat Howard, an experiment aimed at using unexpected properties of mirrors to access alternate realities goes terribly wrong. 

Seasons of Glass and Iron, by Amal El-Mohtar, combines two different fairy tales, and shows how two princesses with different problems (one trying to wear out iron shoes and the other sitting atop a glass hill that no one can climb) find ways to help each other out.

Other Reviews: Search Web,

5 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Just bought this based on your review

  2. I got this out the library. So far I have read seven stories, and I've liked them all. Some more than others.

    Please note, these stories are all very revisionist. They are all really different from the source story.

    If in doubt, I suggest reading "Seasons of Glass and Iron". It has been re-printed free online by Uncanny magazine. It should give readers an idea.

    1. Good idea. This was definitely the best anthology of the year.

  3. I finally got my own e-copy of this book.

    The stories are very good, and I can now read or re-read at my own leisure.

    Thanks for reviewing this work.