This eagerly awaited volume of short fairy tales, folk tales and fables was launched by Mother’s Milk Books on the 26th of May 2018. This edition contains fourteen original stories by both established and emerging writers. Some are very short, while others are relatively long, but all have a rich fantasy woven skilfully through a compelling story. This is the fourth in the series, edited by Teika Bellamy with cover illustration by Emily Catherine and interior illustrations by Emma Howitt.
Each volume of this lovely series has been better than the last, and this volume is the best yet. There is something for everyone inside its pages. For those who enjoy a beautiful romance there is the heart-warming ‘Sins of the Fathers’ by Lynden Wade. For those who enjoy clever concepts there is the sharply poignant and shocking ‘Lowden House’ by Susie Hennessey and an intelligent alternative take on Beauty and the Beast in the form of ‘Belle/Bete’ by Renee Anderson. The ethereal beauty of Rachel Rivett’s ‘Wild Man’ and Holly James’ ‘Faraway Woman’ will appeal to all who love stories that lose them in another world with lyrical prose and complete immersion in the fantastical, while the sharp wit of Matthew Keeley’s ‘Winging It’ will delight all who like a good laugh with their fairy tales. Anyone looking for a modern twist on old concepts will enjoy Ruth Asch’s ‘The Microwave’, in my opinion one of the standout pieces in this volume.
The stories are too numerous to mention them all by name but there were a couple of other standouts. Victoria Haslam’s ‘Strange Traits’, about a girl choosing which genetic modifications to accept as part of growing up, is a sharp and perceptive glimpse into a strange, but also scarily possible, future. More science fiction than fantasy it nevertheless fits beautifully into this collection. The most touching tale in the collection is, in my opinion, the finale story, ‘A Story in Two Parts’ by Leslie Muzingo. A tale of the author’s ideas about the real lives of the brothers Grimm, and a story seeking to be told by the original masters of fairy tales, it is truly heart-breaking. To say more would be to give it away entirely and that would be a shame, as discovering it was such a joy.
Mention must also be made of the stunning interior illustrations accompanying each story. Illustrator Emma Howitt has, once again, captured the essence of each story perfectly in a single picture.
The unique feature of the notes on stories at the back of the book gives a fascinating insight into how each of the authors came up with their stories. Some are almost bonus stories all by themselves.
Every fan of fantasy and fairy tales should consider reading this book. Short stories have been out of fashion for a long time now, but people are finally starting to appreciate their true worth, and there is no better place to start exploring the possibilities offered by short fiction than inside this beautiful volume.
You can get your very own copy here