Saturday, December 31, 2016

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

Find this book
(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 & 4 Stories: 5;  Estimated Time: 2h:04m (37K words)
Recommended By Stories: 9;  Estimated Time: 3h:28m (63K words)
Total Stories: 18;  Estimated Time: 6h:06m (110K words)
Read How to Use RSR on the right sidebar or this link to use this post.

Rating: 5 -> Hugo-worthy

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik  Time: 39m (Novelette)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Fairy Tale) Young Miryem supports her family lending money at interest, but things get difficult when someone from Faerie makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

Rating: 4 -> Recommended

Penny For a Match, Mister? by Garth Nix  Time: 18m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Historical Fantasy) In the Old West, a murder under a full moon brings a thing across “The Line.” A thing seeking vengeance, and with a broad idea of responsibility.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
Reflected by Kat Howard  Time: 16m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Science Fantasy) As a physics grad student, Sophie researches mirrors as potential gateways to alternate realities. She shares her unexpected results.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar  Time: 18m (ShortStory)  IssueUncanny 13
(Fairy Tale) Tabitha has been walking a long time, trying to wear out seven pairs of iron shoes; Amira has been sitting alone on a glass hill that suitors try to climb.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4 JStrahan
The Briar and the Rose by Marjorie M. Liu  Time: 31m (Novelette)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(High Fantasy) The Duelist serves the cold, beautiful Carmela but loves Rose. Separating Rose from Caramela is going to be the challenge of her life.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4

Rating: 3 -> Average

Even the Crumbs Were Delicious by Daryl Gregory  Time: 21m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Drug SF) In the middle of preparations for Tindal’s roommate’s funeral, two teenagers show up and start eating the psychotropic drugs off the wall.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: JStrahan
In the Desert Like a Bone by Seanan McGuire  Time: 16m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Historical Fantasy) Coyote and the red fox girl ride across the western desert looking for a man and a score to settle.
Pearl by Aliette de Bodard  Time: 27m (Novelette)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Space Opera) Da Trang earned favor with the Empress because his remora, Pearl, feed him information. He has lost Pearl, but cannot stop searching for it.
Some Wait by Stephen Graham Jones  Time: 19m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Horror) When one child disappears, it’s a tragedy, but a series of disappearances is another matter. Especially when they're disappearing from their own bedrooms--and appear to be going willingly.
The Other Thea by Theodora Goss  Time: 36m (Novelette)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Modern Fantasy) Thea graduated from witches school six months ago and should be at Harvard now, but the lack of her shadow, which she lost as a child, is depressing her, and if she can’t find it soon, she’ll fade away entirely.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: RHorton:4
The Super Ultra Duchess of Fedora Forest by Charlie Jane Anders  Time: 13m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Fairy Tale) A mouse, a bird, and a sausage live together happily, but a tyranny arising in the world threatens to disturb their idyll.
The Thousand Eyes by Jeffrey Ford  Time: 14m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Horror) When old Merle was young, he wanted to paint all the bars in South Jersey. He did The Thousand Eyes last. A hard place to find. A place where The Voice of Death performs on Wednesdays.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: SFEP
Underground by Karin Tidbeck  Time: 14m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Slipstream) Hedvig’s father accidentally trades her to a cursed prince—which doesn’t happen every day in modern America—and then things get strange.
When I Lay Frozen by Margo Lanagan  Time: 18m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Fairy Tale) Tommelise really doesn’t want to marry Mr. Muldvarp, the mole, but she feels beholden to Mrs. Markmusen, the mousewife who has cared for her all winter and who insists it’s a good match.

Rating: 2 -> Not Recommended

Badgirl, the Deadman, and the Wheel of Fortune by Catherynne M. Valente  Time: 19m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Horror) Badgirl worries about Deadman who brings her daddy "sugar," so she hides when he visits. But he wants something from her when her daddy can't pay.
Familiaris by Genevieve Valentine  Time: 16m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Meta Fiction) A man wants a child, but his wife does not. A princess had seven sons in seven days, sent them away, and was swallowed by them eighteen years later. And there are wolves.
Giants in the Sky by Max Gladstone  Time: 12m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Transhuman) One of the ascended humans wants to help the ones who stayed behind on now-primitive Earth, but bureaucracy appears to have survived ascension.
The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle by Sofia Samatar  Time: 11m (ShortStory)  IssueStarlit Wood 2016
(Meta Fiction) Mahliya will be down in a bit to tell you the story, but we'll begin by telling you a love story.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: RHorton:4

Rating: 1 -> Needs Improvement

Rating: Not Rated

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.