NetGalley approved me as a reviewer for How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen. I loved the cover, and I was very interested in some of the fairy tales described in the synopsis. A few tales did really resonate with me, while some other failed to grab my interest. Keep reading for my final verdict on this anthology!
Click here for the synopsis!
Fantasy legend Jane Yolen presents a wide-ranging offering of fractured fairy tales. Yolen fractures the classics to reveal their crystalline secrets, holding them to the light and presenting them entirely transformed; where a spinner of straw into gold becomes a money-changer and the big bad wolf retires to a nursing home. Rediscover the tales you once knew, rewritten and refined for the world we now live in―or a much better version of it.
Prior to reading a few of the stories in Fracture I honestly didn’t realize that the entire anthology was written by one person. I also didn’t realize that all of the stories had been published previously in other anthologies over the past few decades. As a result, there was some duplication of efforts. There are 3 different variations on the Cinderella story, for example. While that is interesting from a perspective of literary analysis, I found it a bit tiring to simply read for enjoyment. There were a few other stories that felt very similar to each other, so I found myself skimming because I felt like I already read it.
Again, many of these stories were originally published in the 1980s and some address difficult topics like incest, body dysmorphia, and anti-semitism. The author is herself Jewish, so I found many of the fairy tales that dipped into the Holocaust interesting. There were times when I felt these topics were not handled in the most graceful manner, however. In the notes at the back of the book, Yolen even apologizes to “skinny” people for their demonization in the story Cinder Elephant. That story tried to celebrate a thick Cinderella, and in the process, it painted anyone who was not overweight as evil. If Yolen found it important to include this apology in her author notes, I wonder if it might have been better to rewrite this story, and perhaps a few others as well.
There were a lot of tales in this collection I really loved. I found myself smiling and laughing throughout The Bridge’s Complaint & Happy Dens especially. They both centralize the villains in classic tales and personify animals and inanimate objects. I thought these stories were some of the most humorous.
Other stories in the book turned toward the darker side of the fairy tale. One Ox, Two Ox, Three Ox, and the Dragon King (one title) was perhaps my favorite of the book. It painted a rich environment steeped in Chinese mythology without using obvious or borderline insulting identifiers to inform the reader where the story was set. This was done so artfully. The story then focuses on the importance of family, and the ways magic and monsters play into Chinese myth. I just loved this one and if you don’t pick up the anthology, I would encourage you to find this story in another publication.
Overall, I don’t think I would recommend this story collection. It would be great for someone who is working on writing their own fairy tale retellings as an educational source of what works and what doesn’t. How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is on sale now!