Having to wait on the release for this illustrated collection of original fairy tales since the start of the year was nearly excruciating. I even went ahead and read The Too-Clever Fox by Leigh Bardugo a month after the news to calm my eagerness. But here I am finally ready to dive into my long awaited review for this collection!
Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.
“And what lesson am I to learn from this story?” asked the beast when she was done.
“That there are better things than princes.”
#1: “Ayama and the Thorn Wood.”
An original retelling of a forest that demands to hear only the truth and nothing but the truth, which made for a clever, wordy, high-spirited read. It also delivered a compelling mix of Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White, excelling at capturing the chilling and gleaming atmosphere.
“And can this ugly beast not speak for himself?”
The beast looked upon his father and said, “A man like you is owed no words. I trust Ayama to tell my story.”
#2: “The Witch of Duva.”
A twistingly clever take on the wicked stepmother trope. Seriously, that ending couldn’t have messed me up more. Leigh Bardugo was making it quite the challenge to move on seamlessly from story to story while delivering such blows at each end.
“Karina who had given herself to a monster, in the hope of saving just one girl.”
“I got no other place to go
But now take me home
Take me home where I belong
I can’t take it anymore.”
#3: “Little Knife.”Bardugo once again succeeds to bring about an unexpected turn of events. And I have to note that I came to endlessly appreciate her for sharing the message that our heroine’s story doesn’t have to end with finding romantic love (not specifically talking about one tale here), even going so far as to make that the damn point of it all.
“It was I who built the tower of trees,” said the river.
“And I who earned the mirror from Baba Anezka. It was I who found the magic coin. And now I say to you, Yeva Luchova: Will you remain here with the father who tried to sell you, or the prince who hoped to buy you, or the man too weak to solve his riddles for himself? Or will you come with me and be bride to nothing but the shore?”
“The river carried her all the way to the seashore, and there she stayed. She said her prayers in a tiny chapel where the waves ran right up to the door, and each day she sat by the ocean’s edge and watched the tides come and go. She lived in happy solitude, and grew old, and never worried when her beauty faded, for in her reflection she always saw a free woman.”
Easily the best ending I’ve read in awhile.
Overall, I was enamoured by this deliciously feminist collection of atmospheric folk tales filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.