Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Reading In The Woods

As we were getting ready for our Trip of Awesome as our adventure in the redwoods will now officially be called, my already amazing Hubbin took me to the bookstore to get a book.  He asked what I wanted and I said I was looking for faries and woods and short stories.  Well folks the literary spirits must have heard me 'cause as soon as we walked into the store a book called Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold, edited by Paula Guran.  Let's see, fairies...check, woods...check...short stories...check, and check out the cover below!  This is a collection of retold fairy tales (or wonder stories as she calls them) which is one of my favorite genre's.  Here are a couple of my favorites.
The Bone Mother by Angela Slatter - I have a thing for Baba Yaga stories and this retelling of Vasilisa the Beautiful did not disappoint.  In this version we explore the relationship between mothers and daughters and the various ways they can delight and disappoint each other. We also get a different take on the Baba Yaga character.  Most stories show her as either an evil witch or a misunderstood granny.  This story shows us all the facets and motivations of this Russian staple giving us a very well rounded story within just a few pages.

The Coin of Heart's Desire by Yoon Ha Lee - For this story the author was inspired by Korean folklore and The Dragon King Under the Sea in particular.  In this stories few pages we get a glimpse of a most noble young empress who makes a life altering decision when she is confronted with a dragon and his wish giving coin.  This is my favorite type of short story as it not only entertains but makes a person think.  How does one obtain their hearts desire and not become corrupted, especially when a whole country is concerned.  Loved it!

The Coat of Stars by Holly Black - Can I just say I am seriously loving this author lately.  Anyways here we have a story that is very much a mix of modern and fae and to me it is seamless.  Drawing from any number of brave tailor tales we follow Rafael, a New York costume designer as he comes home to his super traditional family and how he finds a child hood friend by using his skills as a tailor to woo the fairy queen.  This story has so many layers to it and yet it is very readable and very to the point.  Another spot on story by this author.

The Queen and the Cambion by Richard Bowes - One of my favorite subjects in general is Queen Victoria and her reign.  When you combine that with Merlin, one of my favorite wizards, then we have a match made in heaven.  This story gives us a glimpse of both Victoria and Merlin through out the years as their lives intersect at various points and not always in a linear fashion.  This makes for a fascinating, yet intimate look at two larger then life English icons.  This combination is a winner and I totally want to read so much more.

Rats by Veronica Schanoes - This is a very different sort of "fairy tale".  It is essentially this authors telling of the tragedy of Sid and Nancy.  The author tries to convey the mental illness of the main character with fantastical imagery and I think she does a great job.  The author wanted to get the point across that the Nancy character was not an evil horrible person hell bent on destruction but a sick and troubled child who needed help not shunning.  I'm not sure if most people would call it a fairy tale and yet that is what fairy tales were originally intended for, to tell a cautionary tale and draw attention to things that needed to be fixed...I liked it.

Good Hunting by Ken Liu - I love foxes so it follows that I very much enjoy any tale involving kitsune or any other fox spirit.  In this tale we follow a former hunter of spirits and a kitsune as they try and adapt to a new and changing world.  They go from simple country hunter and spirit to working with steam engines and prostitution in the modern Hong Kong.  Eventually the pair use new technology to restore the spirits shape shifting abilities.  I love stories like this that show that magic can come in so many different forms and like anything else needs to evolve and adapt.
Over all I very much liked the variety of stories in this collection.  The vast majority made me very happy and I will probably pull it out and read it again.  I also now have so many happy memories associated with it as I read it in a redwood, on a tree throne, laying by a river and curled up with my nephews.  This is definitely a book that comes with experiences and it will forever be in my favorites collection for at least that reason.  I give it 8 out of 10 haute coutre coats and recommend it to anybody who loves a retold fairy tale and originality.  Happy Reading Everybody!

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