Book Review: “The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales” edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe

I’m back with another book review to open up the month of April as well as celebrate Easter (no, this book sadly does not involve Easter in any way)! I decided to change it up this time by reviewing a short story collection entitled “The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales” edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“Once upon a time. It’s how so many of our most beloved stories start.

Fairy tales have dominated our cultural imagination for centuries. From the Brothers Grimm to the Countess d’Aulnoy, from Charles Perrault to Hans Christian Anderson, storytellers have crafted all sorts of tales that have always found a place in our hearts.

Now a new generation of storytellers have taken up the mantle that the masters created and shaped their stories into something startling and electrifying.

Packed with award-winning authors, this anthology explores an array of fairy tales in startling and innovative ways, in genres and settings both traditional and unusual, including science fiction, western, and post-apocalyptic as well as traditional fantasy and contemporary horror.”

As with all fairytale retellings, if you’ve read a lot of my book reviews on this blog, you know that with me it tends to be either a hit or a miss. Either they go super-well, or super-horribly.

Given this, there were definitely some stories in this collection that were a hit! “In The Desert Like A Bone” by Seanan McGuire had a very Western-genre take on Little Red Riding Hood, and as strange as it may seem, it actually worked out really well. I loved the dialogue and the retold relationships in the story. There is no mother or grandmother of Little Red Riding Hood here, but instead we get her actual father. The Wolf is replaced by a Coyote, but given the Western genre, I’m not too surprised at that and it makes sense for the sake of the story’s setting. Red Riding Hood in question is also a bit wiser than portrayed in the original story, too. I can’t say much about the plot because I’ll spoil too much, but it’s definitely fun to put the pieces together as you read along.

Another short story in the collection I liked was “Penny For A Match, Mister?” by Garth Nix. Like with “In The Desert Like A Bone,” it’s a Western-genre take on a fairytale, but this fairytale is based off The Little Match Girl. Instead of going the pity-the-poor-girl-who-dies route, Nix retells the Match Girl as one seeking vengeance, and matches are very much a part of her for much more lethal reasons. He writes her retold self well, and it’s very interesting to see how she goes and does her own thing.

Despite the interesting retellings, there were some that were a total miss. “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik, a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and “The Briar and the Rose” by Marjorie Liu, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, just did not make sense at all. I felt that both of these short stories, as well as other stories in the collection, completely disregarded the core elements of the fairytales that makes us recognize and love them.

Another con of this collection was that a lot of the short stories are based off lesser known fairytales such as The Wolves and The Girl With No Hands, and so one may require a google search to know the original stories before reading the retellings. It was nice because it would then be one’s first look at the original tale and the first look at a retelling, but it also takes away from the fun of already knowing from the start what the original fairytale was and seeing how the retelling compared.

Overall, I’m rating this book 3 out of 5 stars!

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