"It never disappointed." Through a Tangled Wood, Fairy Tale Anthology #review

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Through a Tangled Wood

Written by Various Authors

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale

A variety of writers come together to twist traditional fairy tales into unusual and mysterious stories. From Beauty and the Beast, to Hansel and Gretel, to the Ugly Duckling, these stories will be sure to pull you into a fantastical world of princes, romance, and maybe a little science fiction.

"Plan B" by Katie French. When Nolan is selected as one of the few candidates to work in the Breeders' hospital, he thinks all his troubles are over. Now he can afford precious medicine to save his ailing father. He’s heard of the Breeders’ cruelty, of their inhuman experiments, but he’s sure they’re fabrications. Then he stumbles into the Plan B room and learns how truly awful the Breeders can be.

"Tailless" by Ariele Sieling. A retelling of the Ugly Duckling, set on a far away planet in an unknown galaxy. While fighting a war with her people's biggest enemy, young Bode struggles to understand why she feels out of place in her community, and why she, unlike her comrades, was born without a tail.

"I Am the Maid" by Sarah Dalton. A hostile zombie killing Maid Marian meets an ill-behaved ex-soldier Robin in this post-apocalyptic retelling of Robin Hood. When a young girl falls deathly sick, the two are forced to join forces in order to outwit the Sheriff, and the mysterious Guy Gisbon.

"Three Wishes" by Marijon Braden. When Aladdin rubbed the magic lamp, things went pretty well for him. But a few thousand years later, the world has changed and the genie is old, cranky, and doesn't play fair. Young Alison thinks she's found the answer to all her prayers, but instead finds that having wishes come true isn't all it's cracked up to be.

"Killing Snow White" by Jamie Campbell. A magical retelling of the story of Snow White, told entirely by the Evil Queen who supposedly tried to poison her. Think Snow White is innocent? Think again.

"A House in the Woods" by H.S. Stone. At the conclusion of a scavenger hunt for Old World artifacts, Hansel and Gretel find themselves lost on the outskirts of the city after dark. They stumble upon a house in the nearby woods, hoping that they will find help inside, but the house's inhabitant has other ideas.

“Flight” by Zoe Cannon. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Dragged to the palace at swordpoint, commanded to cure the cursed prince with a kiss, Lucia wants nothing more than to return to her solitary world of books and magical study. But she soon discovers that she and the prince share more in common than she could have imagined… and that the truth behind his curse could destroy—or save—them both.

J. Hamlet's Review

A good short story anthology can be difficult to find even if it has an intriguing theme. Individual styles can clash and make the anthology disjointed or they can mesh too much and leave the reader with samey tales that start to feel repetitive. Through a Tangled Wood is more than good, though. It is something truly special. A collection of fairy tale retellings, the anthology transports these stories to post-apocalyptic, alien, and dystopian fictional universes among others. Jamie Campbell, Katie French,  Ariele Sieling, Sarah Dalton, Marijon Braden, H.S. Stone and Zoe Cannon all do a superb job with their individual tales.

Some of the fictional universes they created are so fleshed out I wanted to read more and see what else could be done with such a richly textured environment. These stories did what they needed to do in hitting or inverting all the high notes of the fairy tale but did not overstay their welcome. Most left me wanting more, with moods and settings that ranged from bleak to comical, all while retaining an undercurrent of unpredictability and sly subversion.

While I enjoyed every story in the collection, my favorites were definitely Katie French's “Plan B,” Zoe Cannon's “Flight,” and Sarah Dalton's “I Am the Maid.”

All three definitely show tis anthology and the concept of fairy tale retellings at their best. “Plan B” spins an almost unrecognizably suspenseful tale that transports sleeping beauty to a despair-filled and mysterious dystopia. In particular, its memorable characters gave it real stakes and filled me with dread. “Flight” takes beauty and the beast and changes both lead characters into rebellious youth craving to be mages in a high fantasy setting. While it was short, it had an element of exuberance that really elevated the story. “I Am the Maid,” puts Robin Hood in a zombie apocalypse and changes him into a sidekick, making Maid Marian into a cunning and lethal hero in the process.

This story in particular could easily have been a whole novel but it presented economically with lots of dread and a breakneck pace.

By keeping the number of stories down, the anthology feels short and brief but also lets each of the individual stories stretch out a bit when needed. Given the diversity of authors and story types, Through  a Tangled Wood always left me wondering what would happen next and what creative twists would be applied to these well known tales. It never disappointed.

Review Disclaimer: Book provided in exchange for an honest review.