This collection of fairytale retellings takes source material and spins it, topples it, and raises it up again in delightful ways. I went into this collection thinking “standard fairy tales,” but was quickly surprised by the wide range of settings, tone, and even POVs present here.
While this is definitely a themed collection with heavy emphasis fairy tales — and every story presents a strong female protagonist — that’s where the similarities end. You’ll find stories set in villages and other scenery familiar to us in fairy tales, but also stories that take you to modern-day construction company offices and coffee shops. And you’ll find Jane Austin-like Victorian settings in between.
The collection contains six stories of varying length, starting with “Milking Time.” I thought the first story was an enjoyable read and a good way to start the collection. It wasn’t as surprising as some of the other tales, but it did have a fun and strong female protagonist and some enjoyable twists. I’d say this was one of two stories in the book that are closest to a “traditional” fairy tale.
Next is “The Wicked Wolves of Windsor,” which is a Little Red Riding Hood retelling with teeth all its own. I really enjoyed this one, in part because the setting was unexpected and the twist Nash puts on this well-told tale was darker and more interesting than you often get.
“The Queen’s Favorite” is the other story I’d say is close to traditional fairy tale. It follows the cadence of many fairy tales, with repeating patterns and motifs, for example. But it’s cleverly told and has a satisfying ending. Plus, it has a magical(?) horse. It’s definitely not a normal horse, and I’ve been a sucker for stories with not-normal horses since at least my preteen years, when I discovered Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series.
“The Prince Learns a Lesson” is, perhaps, one of the lighter stories in this volume. It’s a traditional cautionary tale told in a modern setting, and the last line is my favorite line in the entire book — it’s one of those endings that’s so ideal, you literally sigh happily when you read it.
After the modern telling about a prince behaving badly, we get what is definitely my favorite story in the book. “A Society of Heartless Women” is a mash up of fairy mythos, caustic Jane-Austin-style narration, and crime procedural. I was immediately drawn in by the unique first-person narration that Nash pulls off with aplomb and remained caught by the story until the very end. And it’s definitely worth getting to the end of this one.
The final story is “Granny Starseed,” and let me say that you can’t judge anything in this story by the title alone. Is there a granny? Technically. But this isn’t your grandma’s Granny story. It evolved constantly, with layers adding and peeling themselves away via new characters and family members. I really enjoyed this story because it dug deeper than shorter short stories typically can.
Overall, I enjoyed this short story collection, and I’ll definitely keep it on my Kindle for another read through in the future.
I also want to note that the production time was definitely into this ebook. The formatting is superb, responsive, and well-thought-out. I never got the odd reading hiccup while navigating weird spacing or something else that broke me out of the story, which I find can be common in all types of ebooks.
If you enjoy fantasy short stories or fairytale retellings, this is definitely one to consider. Especially since the short story format makes it easy to break it up for reading between tasks (or, if you’re like me, for reading as a reward for getting a task done!)
Find out more about Byrd Nash and her books on her website, or follow her on Instagram for behind-the-scenes looks at how she creates her books and fun marketing stuff — including a fairy tree and a nymph for her author table!