Fringeworks, kindle, Â£1.97/ chapbook, Â£3.80, www.fringeworks.co.uk
Reviewed by David Brzeski
In his introduction, Adrian Middleton points out that traditional fairy stories have been considerably watered down through the years, leaving us with the saccharine-sweet Disney versions. Even the much darker Brothers Grimm versions were a little watered down, but things have now come full circle and the time is ripe for darker fairy tales for adults, which brings us to this volume…
I feel I should admit up front that it was a couple of the contributors that interested me in this collection much more than the concept. I have nothing against modern fairy stories, but on the other hand, they donâ€™t generally interest me all that much either.
The opening story, ‘Building the Dream’, is a witty tale by Lynda Collins, in which she asks who exactly would build some of those strange structures that feature in the well-known fairy stories? Here we meet Frank Ory, architect to the fae. The bulk of the tale reports how Frank is commissioned to build a tall tower with no doors, just one window high up, to house one Rapunzel. This is followed by a very short retelling of Rapunzel’s story and how things turn out differently to the popular version. I liked the first part much better. Frank Ory is an interesting character and I could have happily read more of the trials and tribulations of his life and work, designing buildings commissioned by the fae. As it was, the ending seemed a little sudden, almost as if the author saw that she’d reached the prescribed word-count and needed to tie it up quickly.
I donâ€™t suppose I really need to say which story â€˜Beastâ€™ by Hannah Lackoff is a riff on. Itâ€™s engaging enough. Junie is likeable, her father, Abelard, is odd, but not quite as odd as the people she goes to work for as a babysitter of sorts for their son, Eden. Itâ€™s nicely written and captured my interest, but again it just ended, leaving me hungry for more.
Colin Fisherâ€™s â€˜Gretelâ€™s Wayâ€™ was the most satisfying so far. He explains in the introduction how he was never quite convinced by the witch falling for Gretelâ€™s trick at the end of ‘Hansel and Gretel’. In his version Gretel is way out of the witchâ€™s league as far as smarts go.
Jan Edwards is the first of the two authors who initially drew me to this collection. Iâ€™ve really liked everything Iâ€™ve read by her. Granted thatâ€™s only three short stories, including this one, but sheâ€™s still batting 100% with me so far. In â€˜Princess Bornâ€™, we get a re-imagining of one of Hans Christian Andersenâ€™s simplest tales in a style somewhat reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse.
â€˜A Taste of Honeyâ€™, Theresa Derwinâ€™s reversal of â€˜Goldilocks and the Three Bearsâ€™, gave me the distinct impression that the author doesnâ€™t really like chavs very much. It does at least redress the main problem I have with this collection so far, in that it contains more comedy than the darkness the foreword leads us to expect.
William Meikle has no problems with darkness. In â€˜Pork Hammy and Chopâ€™, he continues with what Iâ€™m beginning to suspect is a concerted effort on his part to get me to like zombie stories. It does have a nice dark twist at the end.
To sum up, despite the fact that the overall concept of this collection didnâ€™t appeal to me all that greatly, I did actually enjoy all the stories herein. The first two actually intrigued me more than the others, but they both ended too soon. I would have preferred the authors to have been given a little more room to allow their ideas to stretch. Iâ€™m hoping that Lynda Collins will expand upon the life of Frank Ory in future volumes.