Review: Wolves and Witches: A Fairy Tale Collection

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By Ada Hoffmann

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Davis, Amanda C. and Engelhardt, Megan. Wolves and Witches: A Fairy Tale Collection. World Weaver Press (February 15, 2013).

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wolves-and-witches-cover-w622-h350Wolves and Witches: A Fairy Tale Collection is a book of short stories and poetry by siblings Amanda C. Davis and Megan Engelhardt. It includes tales published in Goblin Fruit, Daily Science Fiction, and other venues, as well as new work.

These tales do have a dark bent, but Innsmouth readers looking for out-and-out horror will be disappointed. There are brief flashes of it, such as “The Best Boy, the Brightest Boy,” in which the Pied Piper brings his stolen children into a disturbing underworld, and “Bones in the Branches,” which lends an unexpectedly murderous twist to the tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. But, for the most part, any grisly content in the stories is taken wholesale from the original fairy tales. Wolves eating children alive or cannibalistic witches in gingerbread houses are certainly dark concepts, but will not surprise any modern reader. In most of the stories, what’s interesting is a subtler kind of darkness, a sense of sadness or menace surrounding familiar events.

Similarly, while there is a twist to each of these tales, it is often a small one: a telling shift in perspective or mood, not an outright revision. The most novel piece is the poem, “Diamond and Toad,” which moves its source material into a post-apocalyptic future where jewelry and flowers are no longer of any use. Also of interest is the final story, “Questing for Princesses,” in which a sensible prince stubbornly avoids the quests and tasks that lead other princes to true love. This is the longest tale and the only one with a happy ending.

The stories are all very short. I would have liked some longer pieces balancing out the flash fiction and poetry. This might have also allowed certain of the fairy tales to be explored in more depth. The collection itself, when it comes to that, is on the short side.

There is, however, a pleasing unity of atmosphere, subject matter and style. Davis and Engelhardt’s writing styles, as one might expect with siblings, mesh well together. Fans of fairy tale writing, or of Davis and Engelhardt’s existing work, will find much to like.

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Ada Hoffmann writes speculative fiction and poetry, programs computers, and rants about autism on her blog. You can find her at http://ada-hoffmann.livejournal.com/ or on Twitter at @xasymptote.

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