RETELLING classic stories seems to be quite the in thing nowadays, and this short-story collection is no different.
Bringing together 16 young adult (YA) fiction authors, Grim features their interpretations of well-known fairy-tales.
Some of these tales are fairly straightforward retellings with just a slight twist to make it the author’s own. For example, Ellen Hopkins’ Before The Rose Bloomed: A Retelling Of The Snow Queen tells essentially the same tale as the original Snow Queen, but in the author’s trademark verse rather than prose.
The Raven Princess by Jon Skovron also follows the Brothers Grimm fairytale The Raven quite closely, except for the ending. But never fear, it still ends well for the princess and the hero.
While happily-ever-afters are commonly associated with fairytales, let me warn you first that these stories are not the Disney versions of the tales.
In fact, they veer more closely to the tales’ gory and macabre folktale origins, before they were “cleaned up” for young readers – an effort started by the Grimms.
One of the more disturbing fairytales in this collection is tackled by Saundra Mitchell. Her story Thinner Than Water is based on Charles Perrault’s Donkeyskin (Peau d’Âne in French), which tells of a princess whose own father, the king, wants to marry her. I prefer Mitchell’s ending to the original though, even though it does leave the reader hanging a bit.
Similarly, the first story in the book, Rachel Hawkins’ The Key, ends on an ambiguous note. It is also one of the stories in this collection that has been updated and set in modern times.
Other similar stories include Kimberly Derting’s Light It Up (a personal favourite due to the simple yet brilliant way she modernised the elements from Hansel And Gretel) and Christine Johnson’s Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tongue, based on Perrault’s Diamonds And Toads.
This group of modernised retellings can be divided into two groups.
The first group is quite faithful to the original storyline, but modernises all the elements, like the examples above.
The second bunch takes key elements of the fairytales and switches the story completely around into an almost original tale.
Examples of this are Figment by Jeri Ready-Smith, based on Puss In Boots, and Sell Out by Jackson Pearce, a rather radical reimagining of Snow White.
Two stories, written by Shaun David Hutchison and Claudia Gray respectively, are actually set in the future. One on a generation spaceship called the Hamelin (hint!), and the other in a dystopian future with a robotic Pinocchio.
I have to admit, I couldn’t figure out the fairytale origins of a few of the stories – for example, Untetheredby Sonia Grensler and Skin Trade by Myra McEntire – perhaps because I have not read those particular tales before.
But that certainly did not diminish my pleasure in reading them.
The writing is, without a doubt, good, and many of the ideas, strikingly original.
Even if you are unfamiliar with the fairytales that inspired these retellings, or maybe because you are, it is worth picking up this short-story collection if you are a YA fantasy fan.