Thursday, May 18, 2017

Terribly Twisted Tales

So I marked Terribly Twisted Tales as a book I was reading back in July 2016.  It's been the only thing sitting on my "currently reading" shelf for that time, so I kept being reminded of it every time I logged into Goodreads.  I guess somewhere along the line I got it in my head that I started it last July...but in actual fact I started reading this book SEVEN YEARS AGO!!!!  I only discovered that when I started flipping back through the notebook where I keep track of the anthology stories that I've read (mainly in case something like this happens - I don't really remember the first few stories in this collection).

Terribly Twisted Tales has 18 short stories by different authors.  All of the stories take familiar (or mostly familiar - I couldn't figure out one) fairy tales and twist them in some way.  Sometimes it's telling the story from a different angle (with a bit of different events).  Other times it's changing the story entirely (so we end up with a Rapunzel who got sucked into her brother's drug scheme).  I have notes on all the stories, so here's a quick run down:

I read "Waifs" in May 2010.  This was a pretty good version of Hansel and Gretel by Dennis L. McKiernan, told from the witch's perspective.  The witch gets free from the oven and starts trying to track Hansel and Gretel down.  But all she finds is death and destruction in their wake.  I don't think I've ever read anything else by McKiernan, but I will have to give his novels a try.

Both "My Great-Great-Grandma Golda Lockes" and "Once There Were Seven" were read in August 2010.  "My Great-Great-Grandma Golda Lockes" was an okay version of Goldilocks.  Apparently Goldilocks and the bears were operating a moon shine cave and got rich off selling their wares.

"Once There Were Seven" is Snow White set in a land of vikings.  The last four dwarves (dvergar) are on their way to kill their Snow White (who is named Isvit).  I found "Once There Were Seven" to be sad but incredibly beautiful....I think it was my favourite story in the whole book.

"Capricious Animistic Tempter" was read in July 2016, when I guess I flipped back through my notebook and realized I had started Terribly Twisted Tales.  I started reading it again as a break from In Celebration of Lammas Night.  Apparently it was the only story I read at that time from this book.  "Capricious Animistic Tempter" was a retelling of Puss in Boots by Mickey Zucker Reichart. It was a pretty awesome story where Jack uses this statue his dad had left him; the statue becomes Puss (of I should mention - he's a cat, but this world doesn't have cats).  His dad warned him that it would grant his most desperate wish but had an aura of evil.  So Jack is terrified that Puss is going to take his eternal soul. Rather like with McKiernan, I'll have to check out more Reichart stories at a later point (that's the best thing about anthologies - finding new authors!!!)

From there, all the other stories were read within the last  five days.

"A Charming Murder" is a Cinderella retelling by Mary Louise Eklund.  Cinderella is murdered.  A detective (I think?) goes to find the killer.  He visits one of Cinderella's stepsisters (the last person known to see Cinderella alive) and finds her waiting for him, covered in blood.  She agrees to go along quietly if he'll just listen to her side of the story.  It was a very interesting take on things (although I don't think the murder was justified, even with the reasons the stepsister gives...)

"Jack and the Genetic Beanstalk" was a super weird story by Robert E. Vardeman.  A scientist named Jack is looking for his co-author (who he has never met in person).  He stumbles into a lab where another scientist has eaten some modified beans and turned into a rampaging giant.  The story had some excellent suspense, but I found it to be overall a bit too weird for my liking.

"What's in a Name?" is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling by Kathleen Watress.  There were two faerie brothers.  In this world, the fae need mortal flesh to live (they wear flesh kind of like a suit of clothes).  One of the brothers backstabs the other and traps him.  The trapped brother is reliving his memories, trying to remember a name to free himself with.

"No Good Deed" is the story I don't honestly know what fairy tale it's supposed to be!  I was thinking "The Lion and the Mouse" but I'm not entirely sure.  It's a sci-fi story where a healer is a prisoner of war.  While trying to escape (he just wants to go home), he comes across an injured lion-man.  He stops to help the lion-man; in doing so, he is recaptured.  The healer is shuffled around for a bit.  He asks the Governor for some extra support and the Governor sentences him to die in the arena.  The healer ends up matched against the lion-man.  The ending is what makes me question whether "No Good Deed" is based off "The Lion and the Mouse" or not, because it felt like it might be something else that I'm unfamiliar with - something where there is no real right choice/satisfying conclusion for the healer.  Well whatever it is based off of, this interesting story was written by Jody Lynn Nye.

"The Red Path" is a Jim C. Hines story written in the same world as The Stepsister Scheme (and apparently the main character from this story, Roudette, returns in book three of that series...) Roudette realizes her grandmother is back and wants to visit her.  Her family doesn't want her to go because the grandmother turned her back on their religion long ago (their religion was interesting - it was similar to Christianity but had a faerie dying for people's sins instead of a man - the nails were particularly important because they were iron and I think killed him but I'm not positive on that point).  So anyway, Roudette goes to her grandmother's place and discovers a wolf there.  The wolf turns out to be her grandmother, who hid her in a closet because a faerie bishop was tracking her.  The bishop decides to cleanse the grandmother on a holy fire (ie burn her alive in the house).  He sets the house on fire then goes to cleanse her bloodline, too.  The grandmother gives Roudette her wolfskin and tells the girl to save her family.  Roudette returns to the house in time to see the bishop murder her mother.  Will she turn her back on her faith (and damn her soul for eternity) by donning the skin and saving her father and brother? 

"Lost Child" was a very sad Peter Pan retelling by Stephen D. Sullivan.  A little girl hears her parents fighting every night.  When she overhears her father talk about divorce, she flees the house and into the woods where she gets lost.  She encounters a little boy and his fairy friend, who offers to take her away to a place where she'll never grow old and no one will ever yell at her again (unless it's all in fun and games).  I really need to read the actual J.M. Barrie novel Peter and Wendy.  Maybe it's as sad as this story was?

"Rapunzel Strikes Back"is the aforementioned Rapunzel stuck in her brother's crazy drug scheme.  This was a weird story (her brother sold people numbers during the day, then they would have to come to his sister's window where she would lower a basket, they would put the number in, then she would give them whatever they bought).  Her brother was abusive and wouldn't let her leave, so she very much was stuck in the house like Rapunzel was stuck in her tower.  As weird as it was as a concept, it really worked (particularly in this collection of stories!)  I should warn you though, it's a bit dark and depressing.  "Rapunzel Strikes Back" is by Brendan DuBois.

Do you remember the story of the poor little match girl, who freezes in the cold?  Well, Paul Genesse re-imagines that in "Revenge of the Little Match Girl." Instead of freezing, the girl sets the buildings of people who have wronged her on fire.  She manages to stay warm throughout the night that way.  This was another dark and depressing story (and was hard to read right after "Rapunzel Strikes Back."

"Clockwork Heart" is Ramsey "Tome Wyrm" Lundock's Pinocchio re-imagining, and was the third rather depressing story in a row.  A female Pinocchio (Pinocchia) is beaten by her master, Gepetto.  She wants to be a real girl so he will stop beating her and they will live happily ever after.  Her wish is granted, and Gepetto is angry so Pinochia runs away.  She lives with gypsies for years as a real girl but is disturbed by how humans don't seem to have a purpose in life.  She decides she wants to be a puppet again (and even accepts Gepetto's beatings because she decides that's part of her purpose).  Yeah.  Dark.  I was not a fan of the message of this one at all.

"The Hundred-Year Nap" was a crazy retelling of Sleeping Beauty by Skip and Penny Williams.  The Maleficent-figure (Xyhille) ends up cursed to share in the princess's hundred-year sleep by her ex-husband.  A prince and his great-grandfather (the very same person who was originally betrothed to the princess one hundred years ago) show up to wake her.  They find the fairy in the topmost tower instead of the princess.  The old lecherous prince thinks the fairy is sexy and wakes HER up with a kiss, ending the spell.  Like I said, crazy but overall pretty fun (except that the court wizard may have given the princess a love potion to make her fall in love with the younger prince...that's not cool).

"Five Goats and a Troll" was another kind of weird story, this time by Elizabeth a. Vaughan.  There are five magic goats (I honestly don't know why they were magic) who are travelling somewhere with their two humans.  The humans keep stopping to kiss (I think?)  One of the goats prances on ahead and has fun making lots of noise on a bridge.  A troll (or really muddy human?) appears.  The other goats all show up to the rescue, and through their combined efforts they knock the troll off the bridge and chew the ropes holding it together so he falls (into the water?)  They're all proud of themselves.  Their humans show up, but the goats are on the wrong side of the (river?), so the goats jump and teleport to the humans.  The end.

"Something About Mattresses" was a sci-fi retelling of "The Princess and the Pea" by Janet Deaver-Pack.  A guy can't sleep and is having weird visions of a pretty woman.  The visions are getting more realistic.  He thinks the woman is in trouble, so he attempts to reach the vision and pull himself through.  This is all while he is sleep-deprived, and throwing mattresses around in a mattress store (the poor girl working there has called the cops who are coming to arrest him).  He actually manages to pull himself through, and ends up in some futuristic world where the people have made it so they don't need sleep (but also now have no urge to mate).  But some of their females are turned on by men who need sleep.  Lol, yeah.

"Three Wishes"was an interesting story by Kelly Swails.  A girl is given an amulet.  At the time, the old man who gives it to her asks what her three wishes would be, if she could have anything.  She wishes for the ability to stop time to savour things, and to be a famous actress.  She is called into a play to replace the lead and accidentally stops time.  Using it to her advantage, she nails the performance, which leads her to bigger and better things.  But she still has one wish left....

The very last story was "The Adventure of Red Riding Hoods" by Michael A. Stackpole.  This was a Sherlock Holmes story set in a world where some animals are humanoid (called "Walkers").  Sherlock Holmes is a wolf names V. August Lupyne, and Watson is a sheep named Dr. Jameson Woolrich.  Lupyne is called to an earl's estate to solve a murder.  An old woman was found dead and a wolf is presumably the murderer.  It's up to Lupyne to deduce what really happened.  This was a very fun story to end the anthology on (and it made me want to read some Sherlock Holmes stories!)

It's taken me a very long time to finish Terribly Twisted Tales, but I'm glad I eventually did.  I also joke that I shouldn't mark anything on Goodreads as "currently reading" because I seem to put those books down and have a hard time going back to them.  Like any anthology, there were stories I liked and others that I didn't.  But that's okay - I discovered some new authors along the way, which is always the fun of reading them!  :)

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