Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Wolf at the Door...random thoughts

A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, was my first read for Once Upon a Time II. It was a nice kick-off for me, a quick and satisfying read to get started. It consists of 13 tales by a variety of authors, some of whom I was familiar with and some of whom I wasn't (though I'm sure long-time fantasy lovers are probably familiar with all of them).

Of all the tales, there was only one which didn't really appeal to me. And that's not to say it wasn't good, it just wasn't for me. Which is really a shame; I wanted to love the story, because I really loved its title, "The Seven Stage a Comeback". I'll bet you can guess what fairy tale that one comes from, huh? Anyway, aside from that one by Gregory Maguire, I really did enjoy all the others. Some more than others, of course.

I won't talk about each one, but just mention a few of my favorites. I really enjoyed the one by Neil Gaiman, though it wasn't really a fairy tale retelling. It was titled "Instructions"...and that's just what it was, instructions for what to do if you ever find yourself stuck in a fairy tale. Very cute. Very clever.

I found myself laughing aloud at "Cinder Elephant" by Jane Yolen. Our heroine in this Cinderella retelling is Eleanor. She is dubbed Cinder Elephant by her "skinny as a straw" and "skinny as a reed" stepsisters. You see, Eleanor, while quite a lovely girl, is not a size two or four, or even six or eight, and she has very large feet. And yes, she is sweet, and she is smart, and she does capture the prince's heart with her knowledge of sports.

"Hansel's Eyes" by Garth Nix is more in the deliciously frightening category of fairy tale retellings, much as Hansel and Gretel is a deliciously frightening fairy tale. A video game, a cat sewn together from the pieces of other cats, and a cold room to store human organs all play a part in this story. I really enjoyed this sinister tale!

And finally, I'll mention the last tale in the book, "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" by Patricia A. McKillip. Annie and I read this fairy tale not too long ago, and both agreed that while we loved the story in general, we were disappointed in its ending. I was definitely not disappointed in the ending of Ms. McKillip's retelling. In fact, I loved her retelling much more than the original tale, in part because of the ending, but also just because of her unique twist on the tale as a whole.

All in all, I can definitely say that I found this to be quite a delightful little book!


Joy said...

I'm so happy that you are enjoying your choices! :)

Nymeth said...

It's been far too long since I read this one. I can't remember the Gregory Maguire story at all, and some of the others I only remember vaguely. I think that the one by Kelly Link was one of my favourites. But I do, of course, remember Instructions very well. I just love that poem!

I'm glad you enjoyed this one! I did too, but I found Swan Sister even bette. I read it for last year's OuAT and I really recommend it.

Rhinoa said...

I have this waiting in my stacks to be read hopefully next year. I love the other anthologies Datlow and Windling have done and the list of authors looks really good.

Stephanie said...

Oh...this does sound good! I love fairy tales. The Neil Gaiman Instructions was in Fragile Things (I think). Loved it!!

Carl V. said...

It sounds great. I picked this up in the store the other day and almost brought it home. Instructions is wonderful. I certainly consider it the perfect poem to illustrate my feelings about the Once Upon a Time Challenge. I'm not sure if I've read that McKillip story or not. I'm going to have to go back through my books and check. I love her though and will have to track it down if I haven't read it.

Chris said...

cool, cool, cool. I'll have to add yet another book to the wishlist...damn! I think I have that Garth Nix story in Across the Wall. It's a collection of Nix's short stories that I have. He's a great author. Have you read his Old Kingdom trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen)? If not I highly recommend those!

Kim L said...

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed that book. I read it a while back, the only story that I remember with any clarity is the Hansel and Gretl story. Creepy! But very well written.

Great start to your challenge! :-)

Melody said...

Glad you enjoyed the books, Debi!