Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Heat Rating: 2
For the ten generations since the evil first came to Woodcutter’s Grim, the Guardians have sworn an oath to protect the town from the childhood horrors that lurk in the black woods. Without them, the town would be defenseless…and the terrors would escape to the world at large.
I don't like short stories. To me, short stories have always seemed like an easy way out. Someone comes up with a good kernel of an idea, and just writes that, without fleshing it out all the way into a story. I'm always left frustrated. Why did they make that decision? How is that they reached this age and didn't know something that was crucial to the story? What happens next? They never have closure; to me it seems the story usually stops without being finished. That is not what happens here. Karen Wiesner has written four stories that are fully formed short stories on their own. They are linked by the setting, Woodcutter's Grim, and many of the characters carry from one story to the next, but different people get to shine in each story.
Karen Wiesner here has called what we normally call fairy tales, “classic tales of horror.” This choice really emphasizes that most people don't realize how scary and frightening children's songs, television shows, and stories really are. For example, did you know that ring around a rosy is a song about dying from the bubonic plague? Do you realize that Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water, and Jack fell down and hit his head so hard that it split his head open? Think about how frightened Jill must have been as she ran to fetch the nanny.
The stories in this book: Papa, Blood of Amethyst, Dancing to the Grave, and The Amethyst Tower are all re-tellings of fairy tales. It seems that evil took hold of the town Woodcutter's Grim one day, and the evil likes to possess the town and its inhabitants and force people into reenacting fairy tales. This isn't a happy possession; no Cinderella or Snow White here. The problem is that the evil has begun to seep outside the town limits and the town's protectors aren't able to keep the evil restricted to Woodcutter's Grim anymore.
In the first story, “Papa”, the evil reaches out and grabs someone with a tenuous connection to Woodcutter's Grim, and forces them to reinact Hansel and Gretel. Rand and his wife Amy are struggling to deal with the death of Rand's first wife and his two children. Amy has fallen into a deep depression, which Rand tries to fix by taking a vacation weekend in Woodcutter's Grim. Needless to say, it does not go well. This story introduces us to the evil of Woodcutter's Grim. Blood of Amethyst, Dancing to the Grave, and The Amethyst Tower are all set in Woodcutter's Grim, explain the hold that evil has on the town, and gives us a look into three other couples. Blood of Amethyst explains what Rumplestiltskin really wanted with the baby he tried to steal from the princess. In Dancing to the Grave, we learn how the Pied Piper enthralled the town's children. The Amethyst Tower is an explanation of why Rapunzel's hair grew that much, how the prince found the tower, and what happened when they climbed down her hair.
The overarching story of the evil of Woodcutter's Grim, introduced in Papa, is explained and dealt with in the remaining stories. All four have elements of horror, but also a healthy dose of romance between our protagonists. In each, they struggle with the evil that threatens to overtake and destroy their relationships, and their lives. These women almost those their Prince Charmings through depression, infidelity, the death of a parent, etc. Things we can all relate to. In this book, not only does love prevail, but good triumphs over evil, and you get two happy endings for the price of one.
3 ½ Tea Cups!