Sunday, 27 October 2013

Once Upon a Curse (Anthology) edited by Anna Kashina

Fairy Tales and retellings are a genre that despite my (advanced) age continue to fascinate me...
Maybe because in the end, good always triumph (usually...) and maybe because when I should have read them, I didn't!
So I still feel this "need" to devour them... everytime I see a shiny cover with some promising stories inside!
Basically my inner six year old is the boss of me... but don't be fooled, these are not kids' fairy tales.

This anthology, well  it seemed so intriguing, and exotically dark... and I was so sure I was going to love it.

As you can see, it didn't happen...
But I admit that, at the moment, I'm having one too many Mr. Darcy "not enough to tempt me" moments when reading books.

This one has some interesting stories, others that are okay, and others that are just plain bad!

This three star rating signifies an okay (being one star bad, two mediocre) reading. Two would be more accurate, but there's a couple of stories in this that don't deserve so low a rating.

A Necklace of rubies by Cindy Lynn Speer 

A  Bluebeard re-tale.
The writing was okay, but the characters were too one dimensional (and stupid to live) to make me appreciate the tale:

It doesn’t much matter, you see. It’s what I was saying about the hunting cats. He may be a murderer, and I may be the next victim. But when he scolds me gently for sleeping on the sofa (“It’s freezing in this room. You’ll be sick.”) and when he picks me up and carries me upstairs promising a present for me; he’s so soft and so loving, I cannot feature it.
He’s often a cold, hard man, but he softens for me. He cherishes me. It makes me feel special, as if I’ve done something no other woman could.

Come Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle

This was the "name" that made me notice this anthology in the first place. And I can't say it disappointed me. Unfortunately this whimsical tale of a bored Lady who decides to invite Death itself for her grand party was just too short.
The characters are mostly irrelevant. Here the only thing that matters is the quality of the writing, and the tale itself.

“Be sure,” said Death. “Be sure of what you want, be very sure. Do all of you want me to stay? For if one of you says to me, no, go away, then I must leave at once and never return. Be sure. Do you all want me?”
And everyone there cried with one voice, “Yes! Yes, you must stay with us. You are so beautiful that we cannot let you go.”

Summer Wind by Nancy Kress

A Briar Rose re-telling, this turned out to be one of my favourites in this anthology. It gives us the full extension of a curse during the girls lifetime. And no happy ever after for her:

The first old woman repeated sharply, “It is no little thing you have gained, sister.”
Rose said, “I would rather have had my lost life.”

Stronger Than Time by Patricia C. Wrede

Another Briar Rose/ Sleeping Beauty retell...
Another good story, that I think would have benefited  immensely if it had been longer. It's another sad story (Yes, all of them are... but some I just couldn't care less!) about failure, doing the right thing... and of ghosts!

Words Like Pale Stones by Nancy Kress

A little too much of a mess. I just couldn't connect with the story or characters.

The pale fire moved up from the ground and onto my fingers, charring them to stumps. A vision burned in my head. I screamed, but only from pain: Dirk was saved, and I didn’t care that I would never spin again, nor that every gold thread in the kingdom had suddenly become stone, pale, and smooth and ordinary as a true word.

Every Word I Speak by Cindy Lynn Speer

My husband is gone. I can be silent today, tomorrow, and until his return. There’s freedom in that, knowing that I can go and sew by the lake, perhaps, or take meals in my room by myself.

Remains by Siohban Carrol

I have no idea what these few pages were for...
...a draft, maybe?

We hear on the radio that a body has been found. Some of the unliving rise, put on thick woolen gloves, get ready for the drive. In other, farther places, we lie hoping for an ending that never comes.

Frayed Tapestry by Imogen Howson

An apparently contemporary setting  (you'll understand this if you read it) for Persephone and Hades' story... imaginative yes, but... in the end I don't see myself re-reading this. And I can't help wondering what will happen in winter... or is Spring going to be eternal?
Bottom line: I like re-tellings, but there are some things that shouldn't be altered.
And Candy??? Really? Wasn't there another name less....sugary and more appropriate?

With every step the earth welcomed her. The grass softened under her feet, grew lush with spring growth. The wind lost its cold bite, threading gentle fingers through her hair. Sweet night-time scents rose around her.
“Candy. . . ”
He was following her. She didn’t look back at him. “That’s not my name.”
She heard him swallow. “Persephone. Please understand. I love you.”

The Cold Blackness Between by Lucy Ann Snyder

Reading this is like having a: WTH moment.
Why was this included in this anthology?
This is paranormal romance!

Mary trudged up to her bedroom on the third floor to change. She wondered how she was ever going to break the news of her affair to William. He was still more her employer than her husband. She’d started as his personal nurse, but when sex became a part of their relationship, he decided they should be married. She was fond of him. . . but he was not a passionate man and never had been. And he had grown increasingly cold over the past year; he hardly spent time with her anymore.

Solstice Maiden by Anna Kashina

The writing is above average, but the characters were just too stereotypical. Or maybe I'm just too jaded... and the insta-attraction moment (I know it's a short!!) didn't convince me.
Even though it's worth reading for the quality of the writing.

It is a tale, old as time, true as life. Every Solstice, a maiden must die to appease the god of the crops, to keep hunger out of our simple kingdom. And I, the Mistress of the Solstice, must be the one to sacrifice her. On that night, every one of our subjects gathers around a bonfire, consumed by the power of love. Of lust, really, for no love could possibly bloom for one night and fade into nothingness,(..)"

But Can you Let Him go by Cindy Lynn Speer

I know I'll probably sound contrary, because in some of the previous tales I've mentioned that their short length ruined the tale for me but, this one, which was longer than the other ones, came to a point where I was: "Okay, okay, i get it!! It's always the same thing!!"

This is Cinderella and her prince curse, told by Cinderella's Fairy Godmother. And it is pretty good... despite the events repetitions.

"This is me. The caution in your tale, the one with the thousand guises. Right now my disguise is nothingness,(..)"

"As I tell her the tale, I long to I sink myself into that tree, allow myself to move into it, my body becoming wood grain, my blood becoming sap. It is a dangerous tree, because it is so very deep that you could get lost in it. The further you go in, the more isolated from the world you become."

Like I said:
Some interesting tales, but most of them are not that great...

Author's Official Site

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