Snow White, Blood Red: A bit too much gross-out

Fairy Tale Anthologies Ellen Datlow Terri Windling 1. Snow White, Blood Redfantasy anthology review Ellen Datlow Terri Windling Snow White, Blood RedSnow White, Blood Red edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Snow White, Blood Red was the first of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling‘s adult fairy tale anthologies. The series later developed into a treasure trove of beauty, horror, humor, brightness, darkness, and above all, terrific writing. Here, though, many of the authors seem to have focused on the “adult” rather than on the “fairy tale,” on sex and gore rather than on the archetypal power of the tales.

Most of the stories in this collection are filled with visceral, often nauseating, violence. There is also a lot of sex. Now, normally I don’t mind sex in books. But this isn’t erotic sex; it tends to be twisted, sadistic sex, often rape. The sexual content, rather than being erotic, feels like a further extension of the violence. There’s a bit too much gross-out, a bit too much shock value, and not enough that is subtle or evocative.

There are, however, several shining exceptions. The wonderful “The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep,” by Charles de Lint , is a retelling of the British fairy tale “The Dead Moon.” In de Lint’s version, a young woman has a serial dream in which she has to rescue the Moon from some nasty faeries. It all seems very real while she’s dreaming, but her waking self doesn’t know whether to take these nightly adventures seriously. This was probably my favorite in the anthology.

I also enjoyed Susan Wade‘s “Like a Red, Red Rose”, a compelling Gothic story that reminds me a bit of Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” The heroine is a witch’s daughter unaware of a family curse. Then there’s Elizabeth A. Lynn ‘s “The Princess in the Tower”, a Rapunzel retelling set in Italy. It’s hilarious — providing some needed comic relief in a rather dark collection — and filled with mouthwatering food imagery.


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KELLY LASITER 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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