Edited by Madeline Smoot
Review by Tahlia Merrill Kirk
Editor's Note: You know when the Editor of Timeless Tales Magazine, offers to write a review. that the book is either something special, or unique, or perhaps both...
This spring, I attended the SCBWI Austin writing conference where I made lots of new friends and learned about every aspect of the publishing process, from social media to book contracts. Having a limited budget, I hungrily eyed the book sale table like Charlie Bucket trying to decide which candy bar to buy with his last dollar.There are countless villains found in the pages of fairy tales—ogres, giants, even a witch or two—but none seem to capture the imagination like the stepmothers and wolves. Here nine authors tackle these villains. In some, the wolf or stepmother becomes the hero. In others, they retain their original threatening nature. In all the stories, the villains are presented in a new light. Rediscover your favorite villains in these new fairy tales.
And then I spotted this little gem:
Being in the fairy tale business, there was no question in my mind that this would be the book I took home. My newly acquired treasure is even signed by the editor, Madeline Smoot, who I had the pleasure of meeting a minute after buying the book (wish I’d snapped a pic!).
The book’s title ended up being 100% accurate--Stepmothers and the Big Bad Wolf is a collection of ten short stories that focus exclusively the two iconic characters of stepmother (Cinderella’s specifically) and wolf.
Since the current trend is to write tales from the villain’s perspective, I was expecting lots of echoes of Maleficent here, especially in the stepmother stories. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that none of the stories utilized the cliche first person narrator saying “let me tell you my side of the story”.
In fact, the key to these retellings’ success is that most of them have antagonists rather than villains. Villains are characters designed to be destroyed. They lurk and cackle in Antagonists are meant to cause conflict that can be resolved. The conflict causers in this collection take many forms--from an abusive husband to Cinderella herself.
Perhaps my favorite part about this collection is the wide variety of settings. For example, “Soteli Ma” takes place in an Arabian-esque world, but instead of the expected domed palaces and handsome sheiks, writer Laura Ring surprises readers with a wilderness survival story. Jump over to the UK, right after Arthurian Legends, and you find “Wolfsbane” full of torchlight and heavily guarded fortresses. Keep reading, though, because there’s even a story set in futuristic Antarctica!
Be sure to read to the end where you’ll find my personal favorite, “The Wolf Listens”, which features a Native American girl forced to live in a British school. She is surrounded by teachers who actively work to erase her racial identity. Basically, If you feel like you’ve been-there-done-that with fairy tale retellings, you’re definitely in for a treat with Stepmothers and the Big Bad Wolf. It takes two of the most popular tales, breaks down their walls, and reassembles them into radically different structures.
This review was written voluntarily, without any compensation or affiliation with any of the authors or editors for business purposes.
Tahlia Merrill Kirk is Editor of Timeless Tales Magazine, and an official partner of Once Upon A Blog.