Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears: Excellent anthology despite my twisted gut

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Ellen Datlow Terri Windling Ruby Slippers, Golden TearsRuby Slippers, Golden Tears by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (eds.)

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tearsis the third in the series of fairy tale anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. It’s a very good collection; in quality it’s probably equal to its immediate predecessor, Black Thorn, White Rose, though I didn’t personally like it as much for reasons I’ll elaborate below.

My favorite of the stories is Ellen Steiber’s stunning novella “The Fox Wife.” Set in nineteenth-century Japan, it concerns a domineering husband and his young wife who shows signs of becoming a kitsune, a fox shapeshifter.

Other favorites include “The Beast,” by Tanith Lee, and the poem “The White Road,” by Neil Gaiman. “The Beast,” both lush and horrific, combines “Beauty and the Beast” with “Bluebeard.” In her distinctive, coldly beautiful prose, Lee tells the tale of a stunningly handsome man who is not what he seems. “The White Road” also draws on the Bluebeard story, along with fox/trickster tales. Gaiman uses the rhythms and refrains of his verse to raise the tension to unbearable levels, and his possibly-unreliable narrator leaves us wondering who is guilty and who innocent. Then there’s Delia Sherman’s story, “The Printer’s Daughter,” which is the sweet and lovely story of a young girl essentially made of books.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsGarry Kilworth’s “Masterpiece” is definitely memorable, and I loved it and hated it at the same time. In this take on “Rumpelstiltskin,” the heroine makes a decision that left me aghast. I can’t believe she chose as she did — but maybe that’s what makes the story so haunting.

Anne Bishop completists may be interested in her offering here, “Match Girl.” It wasn’t to my taste — it deals with witch trials, and I felt that the painstaking descriptions of torture devices overwhelmed the story — but one can see hints of the style and themes that appear later in her Black Jewels series.

With many striking entries, Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears is a must-read for fans of dark fairy tales. So, why don’t I like it as much as I liked Black Thorn, White Rose? The only answer I can settle upon is… well, I can be a sap sometimes. While both of these collections include happy stories, bittersweet stories, sad stories, and disturbing stories, most of the entries that impressed me most in Black Thorn, White Rose were toward the uplifting end of the spectrum. They were stories that gave me the warm fuzzies. In Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, I found that some of the most striking tales were the ones that gave me a twisting feeling in my gut instead. So, I finished Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears in a stormier mood. Don’t let this stop you, though; it’s an excellent anthology and a worthy installment in the series.


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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