Sunday, October 9, 2016

Once Upon A Curse

It's anthology time again (what can I say? I like short stories). This time we're looking at a collection of dark fairy tales by a multitude of writers who came together to give us seventeen tales. How'd it turn out? Well, let's just dive right into this.

Each story in this book is a reworking of a preexisting tale. Some of them are more obvious like The Queen of Frost and Darkness, Beauty Inside Beast, and Still Red. Others, however, become clear once you actually start reading it. Those remaining are newish in theory, but have traditional elements that aren't exactly like any before it. I've read a lot of these kinds of stories in the past and, I admit, I had higher expectations for this one than I do and I can say, in all honesty, the overall feel of the book and these stories gets a solid, resounding, honest-to-goodness....meh.

As I said, I've looked into a lot of "dark" fairy tale type stories before. Heck, I've written some myself. The thing is, when you're promising me a "dark" retelling of a classic tale, you'd better dang well give it to me! Classic fairy tales themselves can be really dark and scary, gory and unsettling. So if you're "dark" version of this tale is actually tamer than the source material, we have a problem. Most of the "dark" elements in these stories are simply the inclusion of things like vampires or the-bad-guy-was-the-good-guy-after-all, kinds of things. These can work, they really can. The problem is that they have been done. to. death! Oh, and NONE OF THEM ARE SCARY! I wasn't scared or unsettled once in this book! Nadda once. That's a problem. I've seen these kinds of things over and over, and I could barely find any genuine scares or originality.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "C'mon! They're fairytales, you can't honestly expect anything that original if they're fairytales, right?" Yes! Yes, I can! If you're going to take on the job of telling the same story, but in a different way, originality is key. It has been done, many times. I don't want to read the first few words and know exactly what I'm going to get. That just makes it boring. Fairytales, like any other story, can be retold in clever ways so that you almost don't even realize it until you're halfway into it. Did you know The Matrix was a retelling of Alice in Wonderland? Didn't occur to you before, did it? That's because it's a retelling that's just modern enough, just clever enough, and just subtle enough that you don't realize until you're halfway in. These stories don't give you that.

There are, however, some good things about this book. That being, they're all written well. Each author who contributed to this book did well at making their individual voices shine in each story. They all brought their own unique voices and styles and seeing them all come together was interesting and, heck, I kind of want to check out some of these other works that they have out.

My biggest and final complaint, however, is this. *SPOILER ALERT* The vast majority of these stories, I'm talking at least 3/4 of them all end in happy endings. I'm sorry, but I don't think happy endings and dark stories go hand in hand. Most of these stories are can barely be considered dark as it is, and you throw in the fact that they all link pinkies and skip merrily into the sunset on top of that? That is NOT a dark fairy tale! I'm sorry, it's just not! Those that do have an ominous or unpleasant ending are actually okay, but again, not scary. It just misses the mark and I was really disappointed in a lot of them, overall *END OF SPOILERS*

Final Verdict
Once Upon A Curse just falls flat. While there is some enjoyable world building and good voice and presentation, in the end, the stories themselves just come off cliche, boring, and NOT SCARY! It's just too tame, even for me and I'm a chicken. If you do like this kind of thing, pretty packaging and simple stories, this story might be worth checking out at your local library.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Do you want to read it now? What do you look for in a dark fairytale? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Next time: We're all mad here....

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