The villains have been released into the world! Imprisoned inside a collection of stories retold from the perspective of mythological or fairytale villains…
In this post, I’ll give you a glimpse into the dark hearts of the characters included in the anthology I got into…
This Hollow Heart
This story by Evelyn Shine was like stepping into a nostalgic gothic fairy tale! It begins with our heroine Inessa trying to find her sister, who’s been taken by the wizard Koschei, but she ends up chased by wolves straight into a race for life. She collapses on a stranger’s doorstep and wakes in an unfamiliar bed with an odd ticking noise surrounding her.
She meets her savior Deda and wonders who this strange, beautiful man is on whose door stoop she died, a man who brought her back to life with a clockwork heart, a man who looks different in the mirror and keeps her bedchamber full of gowns, some of which are centuries old…
What are the screams that he tells her are only a hysterical maid, although no servants ever actually appear at all? What mysterious past haunts his secluded present?
We readers know things are going to get thorny when she discovers the truth, and yet the hero’s witty banter and half-hidden, half-smoldering looks at the heroine hint that their romance will have a happy end!
This was seriously a joy to read, even though, as a humorous aside, since I know Czech and Děda means Grandpa, I kept hearing Inessa call him Grandpa instead of Deda 😀
‘Serpents’ by Katherine Traylor is a retelling of ‘Diamonds and Toads’, where the heroine (or villainess), Fan, actually comes across as unfairly understood from the fairy tale we know. Her sister, Rose, receives a gift from a fairy to have jewels and flowers fall from her lips whenever she speaks, but is this really a gift? Imagine how awful it is when you get something hard in your food–how your teeth crack against it (grosssssss!) when you bite down. Now imagine trying to speak with diamonds appearing in your mouth, always between your teeth…
I’d never thought of how awful that might actually be, so imagine how angry Fan might be after poor Rose received this ‘gift’! I found it a fascinating aspect of the fairy tale to go from and, in light of that, guess what Fan does when it’s HER turn to go get a ‘gift’ from this fairy?
Katherine has a wondrously dreamy style of prose that I fell in love with, and it shines in this tale, with such lines as:
“The fairy stepped out of the forest, trailing light like a lost moonbeam…”
“I lay in my bed of fragrant leaves, listening to the night sounds, trying to think of words lovely enough to describe her, some way to describe her in serpents.”
and my personal favorite:
“But I wasn’t an ordinary girl anymore. I was a mother of serpents, a spitter of poison.”
If you’re curious, Katherine also wrote a lovely blog post about how she came to write this story! Find it here.
The Secrets Mirrors Keep
‘The Secrets Mirrors Keep’ by Alora Carter explores both the backstory & future of the evil queen in Snow White. This story is packed with scenes, feeling as full as a book itself as it flashes back to what made the queen become what she is and follows the events after she’s responsible for the kingdom succeeding the king’s death (and the mirror-mirror has its own personality, which was wondrous!).
My favorite parts were when she and the romantic lead (can’t mention his name because SPOILERS!) were held captive (can’t mention by whom or what because SPOILERS!) and how the guarded queen unexpectedly falls for him! This story left me with the happiest feeling and a HUGE freaking grin on my face when I finished it (which is probably why it’s the penultimate story in the anthology – it’ll leave you with a gazillion warm fuzzies!)
Song of the Sea Witch
‘Song of the Sea Witch’ by Naomi Lastrucci follows the tale of Morgana, the sea witch whose powers gift the little mermaid with human legs and steal her voice. Morgana begins as a creature harboring long-ancient heartache, now reduced to mindless vengeance as she churns up the sea against hapless humans. Her vague, distant past spurs her to justify her acts as products of her anguish, and the brightest aspect of her life is her sea serpent / dragon named Llyr, who was the best and most loyal companion!
One day, Morgana riles up the sea to crush the crown prince’s ship, but is struck speechless by his resemblance to her once-love.
However, she’s not the only one who’s noticed the surviving prince’s beauty, for the mer-king’s gorgeous, favorite daughter has been unwittingly captivated, as well…
Which of the women will entrance his heart?
I admit I wasn’t certain how this story could ever end up with a happy ending, but when the curtain finally fell on the wild finale, I found it utterly satisfying, making the tale wonderfully complete!
Heart of Glass
So after finishing ‘Heart of Glass’ by Lisah Jayne Walden, I was literally like: what the HECK did I just read?! I DID NOT expect that ending! Crazy looooool – but good!
This story starts off normal but gets increasingly surreal as you read on (like the original snow queen if you’ve ever read it, with forays into crazy stuff like creepy rhyming flowers talking about creepy rhyming things). And I would say the myriad scenes of this story are like shards of the goblin king’s shattered mirror, bits of clues that Gertrude is attempting to piece together as she weaves through an increasingly strange reality to save Kai. Verrrrry surreal!
My favorite scene was the woman who collected strays, one of whom was her current beloved 🙂 and how the dude was holding the raven on his lap hahahaahah! Wondrous 🙂
So, come thou and venture into this surreality…
Broken Trust & Fairy Dust
Okay, so ‘Broken Trust & Fairy Dust’ by Erin Casey presents us with a heroine who has tentacles instead of legs or mer-tail – so much YES! That was utterly fantasticals, her having tentacles! All the things she could DO with those – and DID to her captor – so much fun 😉 And ‘octofolk’ – I love that word!
This tale was a fun mashup of little mermaid and Peter Pan (with the Neverland bits), which takes us from betrayal by a lover to capture by a potential new love interest to captivity and romance and battle and–well, I must stop because spoilers! Suffice it to say that A LOT of stuff happens here! And the romance was also adorbs:
“No, you’ll stay with me.”
I arched an eyebrow at her in surprise. “Oh?”
“I have to keep an eye on one of you.”
[cue dubious feels on the part of the main heroine]
Somehow, I didn’t think that was the only reason.
Fashion from the People
‘Fashion from the People’ by Viola Tempest is a story for readers thrilled by gore, danger, and near escapes, taking us on a dark and grisly journey into a disturbed mind based on Cruella de Vil. You romantics out there will search for true love here in vain, for this story depicts those who don’t believe in love, who would probably spit on love. It’s a tale of one terrible person meeting another terrible person…
I personally would have loved this story to continue and show us the less terrible person rising up to make the more terrible person pay! Ha!
Fodder for the future…
A Sweet Home for a Bitter Heart
‘A Sweet Home for a Bitter Heart’ by Barend Nieuwstraten III [as an aside, isn’t that the coolest name? :-)] depicts the origin story of one of the most popular (or infamous? :-D) fairytale villainesses. Our poor heroine Smaragdine gets the short end of the stick here! Erm * cough * no pun intended lol. Personally, I think she overreacted, but to be fair, it seems like her witchy sisters didn’t get the instructions right about what they were suppposed to do! Ladies, um, not THAT way 😀 Go off and find your own dude, please. But, alas, they went the lazy way and, oops, you ticked off the wrong woman there… and, yes, there are CONSEQUENCES.
Fairytale characters must have the WORST consequences…
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Apple of my Eye
I have much sadz after reading ‘The Apple of my Eye’ by Jasmine Shouse. It follows the romance of Eris and sea nymph Thetis as two gods vie for Thetis’s attention (dammit, Poseidon and Zues, can’t you keep it in your togas?!) and then end up foisting her off onto a different fate.
Will the women’s love endure the test?
I think my favorite part (aside from the pretty antics of the swimming nymphs in the beginning) was when Eris shows up at the wedding and is all like, “Here, have this gift.” *throws it on the table*
I felt so bad for everyone all around here (except for the dude gods – uuugh lol)!
Air: Undine Retold
‘Air: Undine Retold’ by Demelza Carlton completes this anthology with a sweet romance that makes you want a happy end for the uber-nice and in-love knight and nymph! (unless you’re a bitter puckus, in which case you don’t wish for a happy ending for anyone, but I’ll pretend I only have happy giblets reading my blog and reviews :-P)
My favorite part was when Undine was explaining how her brother, an air elemental, would terrify trespassers while he wore her nightgown (so that he looked like a ghost). That got me to giggle! Every time he showed up after that I’m like, “Is that a lace nightgown you’re wearing, or gauze?” 🙂
All around, this is a light note on which to end an anthology that contains a pretty good variation of fluffy and dark!
Come Taste a Dark God
This story is by yours truly so I can’t really review it, but maybe I can poke some fun 😀 Because for realz, y’all? This started off as a challenge to myself to pick a REALLY UNRELATABLE villainess to try to make her sympathetic, which I planned to do by making the stepson she kills this monstrous creature who assaults her daughter (after the first wife, when she wished for a child, conjured him up from the bowels of the earth as her son)–
The heroine was like, “What? WEAKLINGS! I am the villainess here, so write me, piddly author!”
And so I tossed my idea of the evil stepson out and started going through the original Juniper Tree fairy tale, and, y’all, this thing is dark! Seriously, look:
“Come with me,” she said, opening the lid of the chest. “Take out an apple for yourself.” And while the little boy was leaning over, the Evil One prompted her, and crash! she slammed down the lid, and his head flew off, falling among the red apples. –> Me: Well, this was uncalled for.
Then…she thought, “Maybe I can get out of this.” So she set the head on the neck again, tying [a] scarf around it so that nothing could be seen. Then she set him on a chair in front of the door and put the apple in his hand. –> I’m like, really? You think that’s going to fool anyone? But then she gets her own daughter to hit the dude in the head so his head falls off and the daughter thinks she did it. Nice mother.
And this part where the father is eating son stew, I’m like someone was having far too much fun writing this: Then he said, “Wife, this food is delicious. Give me some more.” And the more he ate the more he wanted, and he said, “Give me some more. You two shall have none of it. It seems to me as if it were all mine.” And he ate and ate, throwing all the bones under the table, until he had finished it all.
Um. Yeah. And I thought one of the anthology requirements was a happy ending, so, yes, this creepy weirdo fairytale also gets a happy ending.
In the end, it took a dark god sauntering in to salvage the tale, because he’s all like, “Oh, is that villainess down there misbehaving? She looks cute. Hand her over.”
Gladly, Dark God, take her! He made things fun, mocking her and undoing her deeds, and then there are also adorable fauns and a rhyming character and a sweet husband, so I think I made this dark tale as light as I could within the realm of reason!
In any case, I tried 😀
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Which stories have a happy ending?
If you don’t care about spoilers, seek the answers below…
This Hollow Heart – YES!
Serpents – YES!
The Secrets Mirrors Keep – YES!
Song of the Sea Witch – YES!
Heart of Glass – semi-happy; the story within the story has a happy end, but the frame story ends kinda crazy 😀
Broken Trust & Fairy Dust – semi-happy; the couple gets together but are separated at the end (with the main character resolved to find her beloved again)
Fashion from the People – no; the redemption of the main character is thwarted
A Sweet Home for a Bitter Heart – no; this is a villain origin story
The Apple of My Eye – no; the lovers are unhappy
Air: Undine Retold – YES!
Come Taste a Dark God – YES!