Grimm And Grimmer: Volume One edited by Theresa Derwin. Book review

Grimm & GrimmerGRIMM AND GRIMMER: VOLUME ONE edited by Theresa Derwin,

Fringeworks, kindle, £1.97/ chapbook, £3.80,

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 don’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 don’t suppose I really need to say which story ‘Beast’ by Hannah Lackoff is a riff on. It’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. It’s nicely written and captured my interest, but again it just ended, leaving me hungry for more.

Colin Fisher’s ‘Gretel’s Way’ was the most satisfying so far. He explains in the introduction how he was never quite convinced by the witch falling for Gretel’s trick at the end of ‘Hansel and Gretel’. In his version Gretel is way out of the witch’s league as far as smarts go.

Jan Edwards is the first of the two authors who initially drew me to this collection. I’ve really liked everything I’ve read by her. Granted that’s only three short stories, including this one, but she’s still batting 100% with me so far. In ‘Princess Born’, we get a re-imagining of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s simplest tales in a style somewhat reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse.

‘A Taste of Honey’, Theresa Derwin’s reversal of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, gave me the distinct impression that the author doesn’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 ‘Pork Hammy and Chop’, he continues with what I’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 didn’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. I’m hoping that Lynda Collins will expand upon the life of Frank Ory in future volumes.