Review Blog

May 19 2011

The wilful eye, Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab (editors)

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Allen and Unwin, 2011. ISBN 978 1 74237 440 6
(Ages 14+) Fantasy, Recommended. The first group of short stories in the series, Tales from the Tower, promised much when reading that 6 authors were given the task of revamping a fairy tale to give it a more up to date tweak. But unsurprisingly, looking at the talents of the authors represented here, Carmody, Harland, Mahy, Murray, Lanagan and Borelli, the stories are fresh and fantastic.
The reworking of stories by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson give us a remarkable array of tales to provoke fear, wonder and warnings.
Catastrophic disruption of the head by Margo Lanagan is an unsettling take on Andersen's The tinderbox, one of the scariest fairy tales of all time. The story bludgeons the reader into thinking about warfare. Eternity by Rosie Borella a reworking of The Snow Queen, tells the tale in a modern, drug-taking scene. Margaret Mahy's Wolf Night has a gang of Headloppers chasing her hero and heroine in suburban Woodlands, changing the scene from known to the unknown, and getting under the readers' skin. Richard Harland's Heart of the beast, was fascinating with its take on Beauty and the beast, but this time extolling the virtues of love and the family. I found the story by Martine Murray disturbing with the boys kept as prisoners in the tower in One window. And of course, Isobelle Carmody's take on Rumpelstiltskin was original and frightening.
The book includes a fascinating introduction by Isobelle Carmody, and an afterword follows each story with the thoughts of each author outlining their writing process and inspiration. These tales are not for the young. They are frightening but also challenge the readers with their universal themes, black humour and parallels to known stories. Volume 2 will be just as enjoyable. Other authors who write using this method of reworking fairy stories include Shannon Hale, Laini Taylor and Robin McKinley.
Fran Knight

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