Short Take: Move over Brothers Grimm, and let the ladies show you how it’s done.
What the world does not need is more fairy-tale reboots. We already get so many retellings via movies, tv, Broadway plays, and books, do we really need another “brand-new take” on something that’s worked just fine on its own for centuries? Fairy tales are classic for a reason. They are simple stories that give us invaluable life lessons, like, if a girl is just pretty and patient enough, and silently endures whatever abuse is thrown at her, eventually, Prince Charming will ride in and whisk her away from all of it. Or if a girl wants a man to love her, she just has to change everything about herself. Or that all step-parents are monsters. Or….
You know what? Never mind. Classic fairy tales are really great stories, but they could definitely use some tweaking for the modern world. And oh my stars and garters, does Grimm Mistresses deliver on that one.
The ride kicks off with “Little Dead Red” by Mercedes M. Yardley. It’s a new version of Little Red Riding Hood, one in which the Wolf kills the poor girl, and the girl’s mother is out for vengeance. Folks, this is a dark, dark, DARK story. I loved and hated every single page. Marie’s pain cuts into the reader’s own nerve centers, and it’s so hard to experience everything that happens to her, but at the same time, I HAD to know what happened. I found out in the end, and I think I’m still a little traumatized.
Nectar by Allison M. Dickson is the kind of balls-out crazypants take on Hansel and Gretel that only she could pull off. The essentials of the story are there, but there’s also a depressed IT worker, a few futuristic pagan vampire warrior women, some really sweet emotional connections, and a handful of definite squirm-inducing ick scenes. In short, it’s Allison doing what she does best, and she is at the top of her game in this one.
The Leopard’s Pelt by S. R. Cambridge is probably my favorite story in this collection. It’s a haunting Beauty and the Beast tale that manages to keep a lovely bright thread of romance intact through all the pain and gore and suffering in the rest of the story. The 1940’s setting was pure deliciousness, and I absolutely adored Beatrice in all her frazzled, frumpy, brilliant, kind, glory.
The fourth entry is Hazing Cinderella, by C. W. LaSart. I thought the “mean girls” aspect of the story was great, and the author isn’t afraid to go down some seriously twisted roads, particularly in Jamie’s backstory. There are a few sentences there that did a number on me. But I just didn’t quite get Cinderella from Katie. I mean, I know that there are some things that are definitely not what they appear to be, but other than some of the other girls referring to Katie as Cinderella, I wasn’t feeling it. She never gave off the victim vibe (even if she was faking it) that is pretty much a requirement for Cinderella.
Finally, we have The Night Air, by Stacey Turner. I don’t want to tell which story this is based on, because I didn’t figure it out until the end, and I think it would be a spoiler to put it here. So I’ll just say that it’s a very old story that’s been tossed around with a bit of Shirley Jackson and The Twilight Zone. Marla is a young wife and mother with three very young children who just moved to a new town and is trying to make the best possible life for all of them. I was on her side throughout, but when she reclaims her birthright, she becomes selfish and complacent and distinctly unlikeable. It’s a bold move, and I had to tip my hat to Ms. Turner.
Overall, this is a fantastic collection. Read it if you like horror, fairy tales, or just excellent storytelling. And for god’s sake, if a weird old woman tells you to close the windows, you keep those windows closed.
The Nerd’s Rating: FOUR HAPPY NEURONS (and a handful of spice gumdrops.)