I love fairy tales retold from the point of view of one of the minor characters, which mean I really enjoyed this story. Dreadfully and deliciously ghoulish, told in tight, picturesque paragraphs with clean and vivid language, there was something to like every step of the way.
Content warning: Death of a parent.
Granny Orin has been dressed in layers and left in the snow to die: Not through malice, but through the love of her son. But though Granny Orin finds her dying beautiful, nothing could have prepared her for what she meets on the bleak mountain top.
I enjoyed this Japanese-culture inspired story, and the questions it raised about how tradition chooses how we live our life, and how our traditions dictate the choices we can make — how it can make it seem like certain choices do not even exist. Lots of think about in this story.
Content warning: Infant death, death in childbirth, abortion.
The queen has died in childbirth, the king has promised that the baby, their seventh daughter, will wed the seventh son of a seventh son.
Gracie is just a peasant wife, but her husband Hector was himself a seventh son, and Gracie is pregnant again. But so many of her other children have died, and she cannot face pregnancy again — not even for the possibility that their son might wed a princess.
This was a story infused with magic, and portents, and desperation. Gracie is torn between Hector’s desires and her own quietest secret, and in the end must make an impossible decision.
Gabby, salty and brusque, is a witch in private practice — she’s building up a clientele of people in need of three wishes, a glimpse of the future, or, in the case of the anonymous young girl who arrived on her doorstep without any appointment, a potion. Not just any potion, but a particular one:
it was such a straightforward potion – you drank it, it gave you what you wanted most. And so everyone got what they deserved.
But as in any proper fairy tale, what is promised is not what is given. Listening to Gabby recount to her friend Natalie what has happened to those she has given this particular potion to in the past took the story from fantasy and back into a chilling reality — how many of the desires that were granted are ones that so many ordinary women desire, day in and day out? What could’ve been a somewhat saccharine modern-day fairy-tale ended up a sad commentary on modern society.
The titular potion-maker Nora is six years old, living with her two dads, mixing potions to make the sunflowers tell her the truth or to lend some extra bravery to an abused and neglected cat. The trials and tribulations of a six year old are just as big and important as the ones adults face, and Nora must use all her cleverness and skill to face them.
I can often be found on twitter longing for more cosy short SFF — stories about extraordinary people doing ordinary and extraordinary things and being happy. To anyone else who wants the same, I can happily recommend Martell’s story.
This is the story of a witch who lives deep in the swamps, surrounded by Spanish moss and water running lazily. It’s a traditional fairy tale type story — a man comes to seek a boon off the witch, and in return is charged with three tasks — at times gruesome, at times predictable. The ending disappointed me, though, in that it lacked the satisfying resolution that a fairy tale usually has; instead, it felt like it just ended, abruptly.
“Six Years Stolen” is another murder mystery — a sniper is picking off policemen, one by one, and Malcolm is co-opted by his superiors to track down the murderer. But this version is a bit more noir than the previous one — set against a grimly dark backdrop that is presumably in the future but at the beginning feels (despite what would be obvious anachronisms) rather like the 1930s. It doesn’t take long for it to take a sharp turn into dystopia, though, when we find out that everyone has been drugged without their knowledge, for more than a century — a drug that prevents people from blacking out each day. I would say more about the drug and the side effects it is intended to prevent, but that would give away too much of the horror… This was a superlative premise, excellently executed.