Angela Slatter was one of those authors I’d always been meaning to read. I have one of her earlier collections, The Girl with No Hands, on my Kindle and hadn’t gotten around to it yet. And then this year, her collection A Feast of Sorrows hit the US shelves. I was intrigued by Alyx Dellamonica’s review at Tor.com, not to mention seduced by the cover, and the rest was history.
A Feast of Sorrows is a collection of dark fairy tales. Some are retellings of fairy tales we all know, some are more loosely based on known tales, and some are completely new. I’m not kidding about the darkness (trigger warning: everything you can think of, and then some), yet they are moving, and strikingly written without being overly ornate.
Reading Dellamonica’s review before I read the book, I think, helped me notice one of the common threads that tie the stories together: the magic of craft, especially those crafts that are traditionally thought of as “women’s work.” The book is full of magic bread, magic dresses, magic candles, and the like, and when you notice them here, you also start realizing how common this theme is in the original fairy tales in the first place.
The other common thread is the world in which the tales are set. Most are set in the same kingdom, some in the neighboring lands, but not in the same time period — so you might find, in one tale, a previous heroine’s story elevated to legend, or you might stumble across her weathered tombstone.
The final three stories, “The Tallow-Wife,” “What Shines Brightest Burns Most Fiercely,” and “Bearskin,” are longer and more closely linked than the others, centering on a single family. Slatter leaves the narrative hanging in a weird place at the end of this trio, which threatened to affect my enjoyment of the book, until I read the Afterword and learned that these stories will be part of an upcoming book, The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales. And also that most of the other stories are from larger collections too! So this is really the Sampler Platter of Sorrows, and I have a backlist to devour.