This is the first hardcover I’ve bought in a while. I read it in October last year and am only now getting around to writing my review. It’s Stephen King, so no surprises that this is a fairly long book. My edition is 592 pages and contains some nice black and white illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. The book’s title is self-explanatory: Fairy Tale.
‘Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for that world or ours.’
From the Author, Stephen King:
Early in the Pandemic, King asked himself: “What could you write that would make you happy?”
“As if my imagination had been waiting for the question to be asked, I saw a vast deserted city—deserted but alive. I saw the empty streets, the haunted buildings, a gargoyle head lying overturned in the street. I saw smashed statues (of what I didn’t know, but I eventually found out). I saw a huge, sprawling palace with glass towers so high their tips pierced the clouds. Those images released the story I wanted to tell.”
This story is taken from a collection of Japanese fairy tales translated by Yei Theodora Ozaki and published in America in 1908. In the book’s introduction, Ozaki writes:
“These stories are not literal translations, and though the Japanese story and all quaint Japanese expressions have been faithfully preserved, they have been told more with the view to interest young readers of the West than the technical student of folk-lore.”
Here is the opening paragraph of the story:
Long, long ago there was a large plain called Adachigahara, in the province of Mutsu in Japan. This place was said to be haunted by a cannibal goblin who took the form of an old woman. From time to time many travelers disappeared and were never heard of more, and the old women round the charcoal braziers in the evenings, and the girls washing the household rice at the wells in the mornings, whispered dreadful stories of how the missing folk had been lured to the goblin’s cottage and devoured, for the goblin lived only on human flesh. No one dared to venture near the haunted spot after sunset, and all those who could, avoided it in the daytime, and travelers were warned of the dreaded place.
The Goblin of Adachigahara
Source: Ozaki, Y.T. (1908). Japanese Fairy Tales. New York: A.L.Burt Company.
Nepenthe is an orphan who has grown up working in a royal library in the city of Raine. She spends her days translating rare and unusual texts and has developed a real talent for it. During the coronation of the new Queen, a young mage gives Nepenthe a book that appears to be written in a language of thorns. This unique book has resisted all previous attempts at translation. As Nepenthe begins to work on it, something about the book draws her deeper and deeper into its thorny pages.
Taking a leaf fromBookstooge’s book and having some time to kill at work, here is a quote from Patricia McKillip’s 2004 novel Alphabet of Thorn:
“What else did you see?” he asked the odd young woman, who seemed more woodland animal than human. A useful quality in a mage, he thought. Some of us have a harder time forgetting our humanity. ‘Things,’ she said vaguely, remembering them. She took an unconscious step toward him. ‘A tree spoke to me. It looked like a very old man, twisted and slow, with mossy hair down to its ankles and eyes like dead leaves. It did not say much, just my name. I think that’s very strange, that a tree I have never met would know my name. And there were the stags with the fire in their antlers. They did not speak. The warrior followed them.’ ‘The warrior.’ ‘Fully armed, on a white war horse. The warrior wore a great sword with a crosspiece laid with uncut jewels; it looked too long and heavy for anyone human to wield.
A recommendation from Bookstooge, I read Patricia McKillip’s In the Forests of Serre back in July 2020. Her lyrical prose and layered world-building really impressed me and I determined to explore more of her writing. It has only taken me two years to get around to it.
I’m currently about a third of the way into Alphabet of Thorn and I really like it so far. I feel transported to another world when I read this book, and that’s one of the main reasons I love reading works described as “speculative fiction.”
Q. What are you currently reading and how is it so far?
Thanks for reading!
-Wakizashi, *wallowing in the rare luxury of being able to read all day at work; just for today*
Beware of old women in the forest; especially if they live in a hut that can sprout chicken legs and run! I first came across Baba Yaga in an issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic. The story was titled “The Hunt” and was published in issue #38 back in June 1992. She wasn’t as scary as when I later encountered her in a couple of issues of the comic book Hellboy.
Here is a quote from Wikipedia’s page on the character:
‘In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a supernatural being who appears as a deformed or ferocious-looking old woman. In Russian folklore, Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, wields a pestle, and dwells deep in the forest in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs.’
The Overneath is a new collection of short stories by Peter S. Beagle, the writer of The Last Unicorn (1968). I enjoyed all thirteen of these stories, and found it difficult to single out favourites. They are all of the highest quality and cry out to be read. These gems cover genres including fantasy, science fiction, supernatural horror, and steampunk. For fans of The Last Unicorn, there are two stories which feature one of Beagle’s most beloved characters, Schmendrick the magician.
“This fairy tale begins in 1968 during a garbage strike.” (Loc 102)
The Changeling is an adult fairy tale by American author Victor LaValle. Last year, I read his 2016 novella The Ballard of Black Tom, a reimagining of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Horror at Red Hook (1927). It was an impressive, very readable story which depicted the events of the original, infamously-racist Lovecraft tale from a different character’s perspective. LaValle’s 2009 novel Big Machine won the Shirley Jackson Award. He has also written a collection of short stories Slapboxing with Jesus (1999), and the novels The Ecstatic (2002) and The Devil in Silver (2012).
Recently married couple, Apollo Kagwa and Emma Valentine, lives in New York. Emma is a librarian and Apollo a used bookseller. After the birth of their son, Brian, life seems good as they both enjoy adapting to parenthood. LaValle takes his time setting the scene of this young couple’s life, revealing their characters in the tiny details: Emma’s difficulties with breastfeeding, and Apollo’s penchant for uploading blurry baby-pics onto Facebook. But after some unexplainable images start appearing on their smartphones, a staggering event takes place in their apartment turning Apollo and Emma’s’ world on its head. Continue reading →