Fiction Reviews

Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome

(2013) edited by Stephen Jones, illustrated by Alan Lee,
Jo Fletcher Books, £20, hrdbk, 415pp, ISBN 978-1-84866-346-6


As a friend of mine would say: 'Kwality!' it oozes out of the pores of this new anthology edited by Britain’s Mister Horror, that’s multi award-winning editor, Stephen Jones to you and me. Timed to be launched at the World Fantasy Convention which took place in Brighton last October and November. Fearie Tales: Stories of Grimm and Gruesome brings together the original stories by the Brothers Grimm and intersperses them with stories from top talents in the worlds of horror and dark fantasy by the likes of Ramsey Campbell and Peter Crowther, Christopher Fowler, Joanne Harris, Markus Heitz, Brian Hodge, Tanith Lee, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Brian Lumley, Garth Nix, Reggie Oliver, Robert Shearman, Angela Slatter, and Michael Marshall Smith, not to forget lavish and loving illustrations by Alan Lee, who was supposed to be the artist guest of honour at the aforementioned World Fantasy Con, but was held up in New Zealand because of some film involving Hobbits. If you have read Jones’ Book of Horror then this is the scary fairy tale equivalent, but sadly without contributions from two of my favourite writers. Elizabeth Hand and Caitlin R. Kiernan.

Starting with the illustrations, the full-colour cover, and those of little winged creatures within the covers are some of the highlights, along with those to 'The Singing Bone', Tanith Lee’s 'Open Your Window, Golden Hair', 'The Nixie of the Mill Pond', Peter Crowther’s 'The Artemis Line', and Joanne Harris’ 'The Silken People'. Try and catch a glimpse on-line of Lee’s cover illustration in all its glory without devoid of all that pesky writing telling you what the book is called and who it is edited by to appreciate the level of detail going on here.

As mentioned we get the originals tales from the Brothers Grimm about Rapunzel, and Hansel and Gretel, and Cinderella, among others and new, up-to-date spins on some of these tales from the likes of Neil Gaiman (The Singing Bone), Christopher Fowler (Cinderella), Ramsey Campbell (Rumpelstiltskin), Angela Slatter (The Robber Bridegroom), Michael Marshall Smith (The Three Little Men in the Wood) as well as some creatures from myth by writers from other countries, notably 'Let Me In' author John Ajvide Lindqvist with his story 'Come Unto Me', involving the 'tomte', a creature from Swedish folklore.

I would recommend many of these stories for their invention, dark humour, and often being not quite what you would expect when you start them, and taking you to very unexpected places, but for me, there are three stand out tales, namely 'The Silken People' by Joanne Harris, the rather long-titled 'Anything to Me is Sweeter, than to Cross Shock-Headed Peter' by Brian Hodge, and the epic 'The Artemis Line' by Peter Crowther, a story that grabs you from the opening lines.

Moving, shocking, funny, pretty essential like Jones’ annual 'Best New Horror' collections, this brings fairy tales back to where they belong to scare the bejesus out of you. Recommended.

Ian Hunter

See Arthur's review of Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome.

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