Thirteen unsettling stories put a dark feminist spin on traditional fairy tales.
What happened after the woodcutter rescued Red Riding Hood from the wolf? Why did the witch build a gingerbread house in the woods? What if Cinderella or the Little Mermaid made different choices? In spare, delicate, fragmented prose, Irish author Sullivan (Perfectly Preventable Deaths, 2019, etc.) looks before, after, and behind some of the best-known European tales and finds both darkness and female empowerment. Few of these brief stories are straight retellings; most are allusive present-tense ruminations (many in the first or second person) with only tenuous connections to the original; all are deceptively quiet and deeply introspective. Men fare badly, lurking mostly offstage as abusive monsters to outwit or escape or shallow weaklings to ignore or manipulate. Agency resides in the relationships between women, although these are likely to be fraught or competitive; the rare instances of love usually lead to tragedy. The women vary widely: princess and peasant, witch and miller’s daughter, beautiful and plain, fat and thin, white and brown, queer, dwarf, and neurodivergent. All are acutely aware of their physical appetites and alert to the cruelties and seductions of power. The handsome presentation is enhanced by the full-page black-and-white illustrations that accompany each tale, elegant and evocative in an art nouveau style.
Ideal for fans of lush, folktale-inspired fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)