The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales

Rating: 4 of 5

From the Introduction: “From the woods to the stars, join us on eighteen extraordinary journeys into unexpected territories, uncharted lands, and unforeseen experiences. Welcome to an adventure that’s strangely familiar and startlingly different at the same time. You’re likely to emerge changed, but isn’t that the way it is with all the best stories?”

My thoughts: An excellent anthology with lovely, intricate illustrations. (Take a peek at a few on the illustrator’s website.) Most times with collections I’m prepared to trudge through at least a handful of the stories that don’t quite WOW me. Not the case with The Starlit Wood; only one failed to hold my attention, and I’m sure that’s more to do with my personal tastes than its quality or mass appeal. I also loved reading the Author’s Note that followed each story.

There are stories that read like a traditional fairy tale and stories that lean more heavily toward fantasy/ sci-fi / western inspired by fairy tales. Having that blend of cross-genre tales really gives this anthology the extra oomph often overlooked in collections.

There was a tie for my favorite: Kat Howard‘s “Reflected” and Stephen Graham Jones‘ “Some Wait.” Naomi Novik‘s “Spinning Silver” was a close runner-up.

Highly recommend to fairy-tale enthusiasts on the hunt for original retellings.

Official website | Editor’s website | Add on LibraryThing | Add on Goodreads

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Table of Contents (with original tale, hidden in case you want to be surprised):

The Keeping Room (2014)

Rating: 8 of 10

movie poster The Keeping Room (2014)A gut-wrenching feminist Western. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of life for women during the Civil War, nor should it, so prepare yourself.

Synopsis: “In this radically reimagined American Western set towards the end of the Civil War, Southerner Augusta encounters two renegade, drunken soldiers who are on a mission of pillage and violence. After escaping an attempted assault, Augusta races back to the isolated farmhouse that she shares with her sister Louise and their female slave Mad. When the pair of soldiers track Augusta down intent on exacting revenge, the trio of women are forced to take up arms to fend off their assailants, finding ways to resourcefully defend their home––and themselves––as the escalating attacks become more unpredictable and relentless.” (source)

My thoughts: THE KEEPING ROOM tackles subjects fraught with controversy; namely, slavery and rape. Three women are left alone to protect their home while the men are away at war. Of course they have to defend not only property but also their physical safety. What’s more, these women don’t start off as equals.

Augusta is the eldest of the owner’s two daughters, headstrong and determined to succeed even though she’s “just” a woman. Louise, the younger sister, thinks she knows everything but doesn’t realize how much she’s been sheltered from the realities of the world. And Mad, the family’s slave, has seen more and lived through more and is thereby wiser and more prepared for what’s about to arrive at their farm. All three push the boundaries of what and who they’re supposed to be, and all three quickly realize the only way they’ll survive is together.

Each woman was given a time to shine, but Mad’s story, about what happened to her when she was 10 years old, showed how much she’d already survived to now be faced with even more brutality…broke my heart. (And I won’t even mention Bill because grrrr.) I’ll never forget Muna Otaru’s portrayal of Mad — especially that quiet little voice with which she told such a horrific story.

Highly recommended if you appreciated films like THE COLOR PURPLE or BELOVED.

Check out THE KEEPING ROOM on Drafthouse Films | on IMDb | Watch the trailer

(Watched DVD on 2/22/2016)