Monday, 31 March 2014

Grim: A Book Review


 
Grim – an anthology

I love Grimm's fairy tales – I have an absolutely beautiful old copy at home, given to me by my grandmother, with wonderful water colour panels, still with the protective tissue intact. It is a beautiful book. And the stories are superbly dark and macabre compared to the versions we're all familiar with. This anthology definitely plays on this part – these stories are indeed 'grim.'

I didn't have my usual slightly nervous feel to be reading short stories – I'm never sure how much I really like them as a reader – fairy tales seem to be in another category of their own. They are complete, but can definitely be tampered with!

Overall, I really enjoyed this anthology. It was compiled by various current YA authors, but I have actually only heard of Sarah Rees Brennan before! Much to my horror, I am apparently very behind in terms of YA authors, although this being American authors may have something to do with it. Anyway, as a whole, the anthology was just so much fun! There were a few fairy tales I wasn't very familiar with, which I looked up to be able to compare to the original, but the majority were ones I knew. There were two science fiction offerings, and I initially felt quite negatively about these – I'm not really into science fiction, and the idea of Grimm's tales being moulded into a science fiction world didn't sit well with me. Little did I know!

It turned out that my two favourites of the whole book were indeed the science fiction contributions! A Real Boy was a retelling of Pinnochio, with the character of Pinnochio being a robot with super intelligence but without a specific 'purpose' like other AI, so able to be more human. I was hooked, and really moved by this tiny masterpiece and its happy ending. I will definitely be on the look out for more written by Claudia Gray. My other favourite was Better, a retelling of the Pied Piper. Again, this was about a robot, but set on a space craft searching for another habitable planet. Now, this was chilling; Shaun D Hutchinson has done a brilliant job with the atmosphere. The end sent a literal shiver down my spine. I will also be looking him up.

Most of my favourites were the very modern retellings; possibly because I know most of the stories so well, it was only through radical retelling that the modern ones could be novel and exciting to me. There were plenty of beautiful retellings with little alteration, such as The Raven Princess, Before the Rose Bloomed, Beast/Beast and The Pink, which were fine, but they didn't excite me (based on The Raven, The Snow Queen, Beauty and the Beast and – what else? - The Pink).

I really enjoyed The Twelfth Girl, re-imagining of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and very similar to other fairy stories, such as Scottish Kate Crackernuts (which I love). Again, this was a modern retelling, with some beautiful description and a sinister ending. The first story in the anthology, The Key, was also enjoyable: this updated version of Bluebeard made a strong start to a strong anthology. There's also a brilliant version of Hansel and Gretel by Kimberly Darling, Julie Kagaua offers The Three Little Pigs updated and I really enjoyed Sell Out by Jackson Pearce.

In an anthology, there are always a few stories that don't really hit the spot for whatever reason. For me, these were Figment, Thinner than Water, Untethered, Sharper than a Serpent's Tongue and Skin Trade. This is not necessarily to say these are poorly written, just that for me they didn't work for various reasons. Interestingly enough, the one author who I have read before really disappointed me!Sarah Rees Brennan's humorous version of Beauty and the Beast just didn't work for me, although I adore her Demon's Lexicon trilogy. I could see what she was trying to do as she juxtaposed the “fairy tale world” with our own world and the amusing clash this created, but, for me, it just jarred without humour.

Overall, a great anthology – and it's given me some new names to look up! Thank you to NetGalley for providing me an ARC to read and review; all thoughts and opinions are my own.