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Through a Tangled Wood
Written by Various AuthorsGenre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale
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.