The retellings included in Fairy Tales Punk’d are quite wide in scope, choosing fairy tales I know and ones new to me as well as more modern folk tales. Their genres vary from sweet retellings to twists with darker, although possibly more accurate, ends. The scene dividers offered a subtle hint to the story type by changing one element to reflect each story.
A lot of the tales are steampunk twists, but far from all. There were also those set in a pure fairy tale land, dystopian/post-apocalyptic tales, a private investigator one, and more, offering a lot of variety. Whether they were punk’d depends on what you’re expecting that term to mean.
I may not have enjoyed every story, but I found them well written for the most part. Some went too dark for my preference or didn’t appeal for other personal reasons. It’s rare to read an anthology where every story clicks, though, so I’m happy with what I found here. I was planning to mention only my favorites and maybe a few that came close, but as I reviewed my notes, I found I’d liked something about every story. Perhaps the notes below will inspire you to see if you agree or disagree with my reactions.
Making Bones by Phoebe Darqueling
An interesting mob version of Cinderella with strong writing and ethical dilemmas that caught me up in the moment. I can say no more without spoilers.
Star Tsarina by TJ O’Hare
This is an interesting story, though not a favorite. I found it a little too convenient, and yet the concept fascinated me. I suspect the story was first written for a Pluto anthology. It might have served with some editing of dwarf planet references, but it plays on the unknown in a way I appreciate. It’s also based on a Cossack fairy tale called How the Mole was Made, which speaks to the broad inspiration sources in the anthology.
Steel-blue Babe by Aaron Isett
I enjoyed this retelling of Paul Bunyan and how it plays with the “man behind the myth” concept. I can say nothing more without giving it away, but I liked the narrative voice as well. Very traditional American storyteller.
The Sharp Mechanical Sheep by Kay Gray
I both enjoyed this story and not. Too much about the ram is unexplainable, and the link to Cinderella seemed a stretch. It might have worked out better with Snow White references. At the same time, the steampunk elements are clever, and I found much of the story engaging.
The Girl in the Tower by A. F. Stewart
The story absorbed me enough to make the twist startling. I like how there’s an element of the teaching tale here, despite its modern voice. This tale builds on hints and half-swallowed comments to a place with many possible paths before the end unfolds. A bit creepy, but nicely done.
Hoods and Wolves by Briant Laslo
This is an interesting story. Very cyberpunk and dystopian in concept, with a Terminator feel at times, but the ties to Little Red Riding Hood are strong. I saw the patterns and yet still was fooled as I got caught up in the story.
The Great Astrolabe of Einsem By K. A. Lindstrom
This begins as a story about how a village treats the disabled among them, and how poorly understood science appears as magic (though it’s not that straightforward). I found the story well written, and I enjoyed much of it, but ultimately, this tale was too dark for me.
Liberty by Crysta K. Coburn
This one ends with something left hanging, but even so, it lands firmly in my favorites pile. Liberty is another Cinderella retelling, but uses the source material in an unexpected manner. I liked how she takes hold of her destiny and enjoyed the traditional, rather than steampunk, grease monkey leanings as a switch from the other stories.
A Saturnine, a Martial, and a Mercurial Lunatic by Amber Michelle Cook
This is a posturing, steampunkesque take on Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. It’s dense and hard to read, true to the source material. I admire the effort, if not the tale which I found a bit overdone. The poem is included in full, so you can judge the homage yourself.
The Second Mission of Azarbad the Aeronaut by J. Woolston Carr
This is a fun take on One Thousand and One Nights. It shows only a glimpse into the framing story, along with one of her nightly tales, but I enjoyed the nightly tale and found the framing story amusing. Both are steampunk in feel, personalities, and devices, but the nightly tale retains its Arabic roots.
Black Dog, Wild Wood by Thomas Gregory
While I enjoyed many individual moments in this story, overall, it felt too big for the allowed word count. There’s a lot going on that is either explained in the narrative or left hanging, and I found the end unclear. Still, while I might not have understood the history any better than the deliberately kept ignorant prince, I enjoyed his bewildered acceptance of help from odd places. I loved the crazy mechanical geniuses and even laughed at times. I suspect an expansion to novelette or even novella length would bring all the pieces together and remove any of my doubts.
Mirror in Her Hand by Liz Tuckwell
This story is a neat twist on Snow White with one jarring moment. The male lead is just as obsessed with beauty as the queen and shows it through extreme ageism in just one instance. Frequently, though, he judges the beauty stronger than the villain when contemplating the stepmother. There are a good number of strong moments to help counter the jarring one, with more going on than you might suspect.
Wound by Paul Hiscock
This is a beautiful story, with elements of a teaching tale, and my favorite overall. It’s odd to say that when I felt it left one aspect unresolved, but that just speaks to how much I liked it. A good closure to an anthology full of talented authors.
P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.
To pick up your own copy:
Amazon Ebook: https://bit.ly/FTPEbook
Amazon Print: https://bit.ly/FTPPrint
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1138356834