Naomi De Bruyn penned this review.
Black Heart, Ivory Bones is the sixth and final volume in the library of stories inspired by classic fairy tales. It all began in 1990 when the award-winning editors realized that they shared a love of old fairy tales. Not the cute, ‘they lived happily ever after’ tales with their almost blatant morals, which can be found in most nurseries today, but their predecessors. The tales filled with sensuality, darkness, and unexpected twists. Tales of wonder, tales of consequence, and tales where happiness could be found — for a price. Tales which are very ‘human’ in nature.
This volume contains twenty memorable tales, written by the most creative and visionary authors in today’s contemporary literature — authors like Tanith Lee, Esther Friesner, Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, and Jane Yolen, to name but a few.
There are two variations of “Rapunzel.” The first tale in the book entitled “Rapunzel” is written by Tanith Lee, and is a charming tale of a young prince who falls in love and must make up a whimsical tale in order to stay with his beloved. The tale involves a wicked crone, a beautiful young princess, and the loss of golden locks. The second variant, by Esther Friesner, is entitled “Big Hair.” The tales revolves around Ruby, a beauty pageant contestant, and her extremely domineering grandmother.
There are also two variations of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” The first, unique story is written by Michael Cadnum and is called “Bear It Away.” This takes the traditional tale and turns it inside out. The Bears are intelligent and quite domestic, until a nasty little lady comes along with a plan which will change all of their lives. The second, “Goldilocks Tells All” by Scott Bradfield is a satire. Goldy uses her over-exaggerated experience as a victim to gain media sympathy and garner a brief moment of fame.
“The Red Boots” by Leah Cutter is not as violent as the original “Red Shoes” by Hans Christian Andersen, but it still shows what pride can cost. Karen wins a dance competition and the beautiful red boots, but at the cost of her best friend’s life. Nobody knew that Angie had a weak heart, and that the dancing would kill her, but not before she curses Karen. The story begins to replay itself when Karen meets Frieda …. will she be too proud to concede this time, or must she be the best at the dance?
“Rosie’s Dance” by Emma Hardesty is a very interesting variant of “Cinderella.” Rosie finds both freedom and opportunity, all in the smell of the early morning. After being deserted by her stepmother, Rosie does her best to raise her hellion stepbrothers. Years pass, and they are more unruly and dangerous than ever. Rosie takes a lesson from her ‘fairy godmother’, an elderly woman down the road….
“Dreaming Among Men” by Bryn Kanar is a tale of awakening. Palinuro finds his reality pulled out from under him, only to find that it wasn’t really his to begin with. His awakening to the truth is unforgettable. A powerful piece, it makes one question reality. Just what is real? Are we animals dreaming among humans? Have we, too, lost ourselves in a dream?
“The Cats of San Martino” by Ellen Steiber is based upon an Italian fairy tale. Jenny is cast aside by her lover in favor of a beautiful and mysterious woman named Sasha, as they travel through Italy. Instead of being forced to endure their company, Jenny flees their vehicle in a rainstorm. She find herself in a small village being the caretaker for a house of very special cats. The cats guard her from Sasha, who is actually a ‘fantasme’, and allow her to heal her heart as much as she is able. When they can no longer guard Jenny, the cats aid her on her way, and exact revenge upon her lover, Carl, all at the same time. Ellen Steiber’s tales have also appeared in three previous anthologies.
“Our Mortal Span” by Howard Waldrop follows the rampage of a three-headed troll automaton through a fairy tale theme park. Whatever will happen when the troll confronts Bo Peep while armed with a semi-automatic? Will the other characters from the park join in the bloodshed, sorry, “hydraulic fluid”-shed, or will they continue in their programmed roles? Will Bo Peep’s springs and sprockets be scattered to the winds?
The anthology ends on a rather wistful note with a version of “Midwife to the Faeries” entitled “Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy Widower” by Susanna Clarke. Reverend Alessandro Simonelli is led astray by the fairy John Hollyshoes, and must lose face with his parishioners to save the life of a young lady.
This wonderful collection of memorable tales is followed by an extensive list of recommended reading from the editors, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.
(Avon Books 2000)