If you absolutely love fairy tales but can’t stand the overused helpless maiden, heroic young lad, and gruesome stepmother tropes, Silver Birch, Blood Moon is a compilation that you must read. My sister recently purchased the book and leant it to me to read over my birthday weekend, and it was one of my highlights this year, for sure.
With authors like Tanith Lee and Neil Gaiman included, you might think that the anthology, compiled by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, might be all gruesome horror or at least scary; on the contrary, while some of the stories definitely have these elements, the tales range from the macabre to the romantic; the empowering to the dazzling, to simply the morbidly realistic.
Gone are the stories where the damsel in distress is saved by a knight; instead, there is a Sleeping Beauty who saves herself, a Rupelstiltskin with a heart, a young woman blessed rather than cursed with the ability to spit vermin and snakes. There are both female and male heroes, as well as equal opportunity villains; there are unhappily ever afters as well as happy endings, and there are familiar tales as well as ones many readers may not recognize.
My favorite stories in the book included one that made Sleeping Beauty her own savior, one that gave a spiritual twist to the Aladdin story, and especially a romantic twist on Rumpelstiltskin. I always had problems with that story—not just the whole taking the baby bit, but the fact that the young woman would be willing to sacrifice said child in the first place. In this story, we get a real reason why, and an ending that satisfies rather than confuses.
In addition to the authors listed above, you’ll also find gems from Delia Sherman, Harvey Jacobs, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Robin McKinley, and many other fantastic authors. Takes on The Frog Prince, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, and many other favorites are included. A particularly haunting tale of Snow White and a gorgeous, sensuous Caribbean version of Beauty and the Beast can also be found in the World Fantasy Award-winning book.
It has been a year since I’ve found a book I wanted to read more than once (that was the entire Hunger Games trilogy), but I’ve already read several stories in this book multiple times. After I give it back to my sister, I will not only have to purchase my own copy but also look into the other collections compiled by these editors!