Expected Publication: October 16th, 2012
Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings Of Mother Goose Rhymes
By: Nina Berry (Editor), Michelle Zink (Editor)
In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.
For the most part I really enjoyed this anthology. All of these authors told very interesting, creepy and highly imaginative stories. There were a few that confused me, but that was mostly because of the fact that I had never read the original rhymes they were based on and had no springboard because of it. This review will give a few insights into my opinions of the individual stories. Beware that as this was an advance copy, some of the stories that will be in the final published version were omitted from this one and therefore I did not review them. Enjoy!
As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old (Nina Berry): This was one of the nursery rhymes that I had never heard before, Taffy and the Welshman. I spent most of this one in a state of complete confusion until things came together at the end. I'll read the original at some point and re-read this one after. Hopefully it'll go better.
Sing A Song Of Six-Pence (Sarwat Chadda): I was very impressed by the story the author built from the original rhyme. Someone cursed into blackbird form, allusions to Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven, and the royalty involvement were highly unique. It really chilled me to my bones.
Clockwork (Leah Cypess): I wondered how she would make a mouse running up a clock interesting and boy was I not disappointed! The mouse is really a girl who has been transmogrified and there is royal intrigue, murder, witchcraft and the ending made me wish this had been a full-length novel. But then again I loved Leah Cypess' Mistwood series when I read it. This was probably my favorite in the anthology by far! :)
Blue (Sayantani DasGupta): Unlike some of the other reviews I've seen, I felt like this story was one of the best in the anthology. It was a retelling of Little Boy Blue and I really enjoyed that it focused on a mysterious phantom tattoo artist, who works life stories into people's skin, but is not allowed to ever feel for herself. The final interaction was truly beautiful and the writing flows like a river. Not to be missed.
Pieces of Eight (Shannon Delany with Max Scialdone): This one was another based on a rhyme that I had never heard before and it really suffered from that fact. I didn't understand half of what was happening and it alternately dragged and moved too fast at different points. Not one I feel I can fairly judge, but not a favorite for sure.
Wee Willie Winkie (Leigh Fallon): CREEPY AS HELL. It is all about a girl who is moved to an Irish village where all the children under sixteen who aren't in bed asleep by a certain time are taken by a mysterious and villainous figure. She is lying about her age to work in a tavern and the consequences might not be pleasant... I liked it and you could tell the author got enjoyment from giving readers goosebumps.
Boys and Girls Come Out To Play (Angie Frazier): One that was unfamiliar to me, but highly decipherable and well-written, which allowed me to enjoy it more than I thought I would. The whole idea that the witches have their own community and claim a child of the bloodline each year was innovative and fresh. What happened when the heroine tried to trick them made me cling to the edge of my seat.
I Come Bearing Souls (Jessie Harrell): This story was based on Hey Diddle Diddle and had the distinction of including Egyptian mythology, with each main character being the incarnation of a deity. That made it distinguishable from the others, but more disappointing because of how limited the short story forum made it. I wish that I could read a full novel about something like this. It would have made it easier to understand.
The Lion and the Unicorn: Part the First (Nancy Holder): I am extremely PISSED OFF. I loved the historical influence in this story, it was well-paced and written interestingly. It reminded me of Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce. I was however un-amused when the second part of the story that was supposed to be in this anthology was left out of my ARC. I am very displeased with the publisher about this. I do love that it showcased the twisted proclivities of royalty of yore though, very nice touch.
Life in a Shoe (Heidi R. Kling): Based on Old Woman who lived in a shoe and the idea that she lives in a dystopian world where birth control is illegal and she has a deadbeat husband who only comes home for sex. The daughter is about to be forced to marry and the Mother is yet again pregnant (even though they are in abject poverty and can't afford the kids they have). So the oldest kids take matters into their own hands.
Candlelight (Suzanne Lazear): I knew of this rhyme from the book Stardust by Neil Gaiman and was always intrigued by the idea of traveling by candlelight. It gave the idea that you wished upon the candle (as a kid) and were transported to a world without parents and restrictions). It really reinforced the idea that once you leave, you can't go home again. Even if you realize how melodramatic, ungrateful and wrong you were.
One for Sorrow (Karen Mahoney): I was new to this rhyme and found the idea of a reverse Beauty and the Beast story very cliched. I rolled my eyes through most of it and was glad when it was over. If you have more romantic tendencies it might be more your speed. Not for me personally, at all.
Little Miss Muffet (Georgia McBride): Little Miss Muffet as being half-spider and unable to be human all the time until her Mom sacrificed herself and became a spider for good. Muffet has a very selfish sister, but even so I was sort of gagging when she met the end she did. Hugely imaginative but not for those without strong stomachs.
Sea of Dew (C. Lee Mckenzie): I liked this one, even though it was really bleak. It painted a story about teens in a lifeboat following a shipwreck, who die off one by one. It was very sad, but the ending (although slightly cheesy) fits the dreamlike quality of the rest of the story.
Tick Tock (Gretchen McNeil): This story reminded me of everything that I like about slasher flicks, R.L. Stine books and gratuitous violence as an American young-adult. Delightfully stereotypical in the best way, with the babysitter meeting a bad end in an inventive way.
The Well (K.M. Walton):
Based off the rhyme Jack and Jill and it definitely took them to the dark side of sibling rivalry. Jack and Jill hate each other because he is the favorite and a smarmy brat. Also, they each want something the other has and as the last two people in the world there is one sure way to get it: murder. Very in-depth characters for such a short story. Loved it! :)
The Wish (Suzanne Young): I disliked the insta-love trend that this one followed, but I'm not much of a fan of Young's full-length novels either. The idea of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star being interpreted as "Be careful what you wish for" was a good one though. And I liked that the identity of the boy she fell for was horrifying for her at first, as it should be.
A Ribbon of Blue (Michelle Zink): It was about a girl with a sick Grandma, cerebral palsy and a mysterious fortune shadowing her that at the fair she would find light, peace and love. But first she would be given a whistle, a ticket and a blue ribbon. Very bittersweet, but the ending made me smile.
OVERALL VERDICT: 3.75/5 Stars
HIGHLIGHTS: Clockwork, Blue, Life in a Shoe, A Ribbon of Blue, The Well, and Sea of Dew.
*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is October 16th, 2012.*