Book Description from Goodreads:

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

Through the Woods is a graphic story collection (as opposed to a graphic novel) containing creepy fairy tales. The stories are told through visuals almost as much as the words, and the two together are quite effective at telling these stories. The art is fairly simple, which I thought was a point in its favor since it was spooky and dark without being grisly or over the top.

I thought each of the stories was quite readable, although I enjoyed some more than others. My favorite was “His Face All Red,” which begins with a man observing another man who looked exactly like his brother and was believed to be his brother… but could not be his brother, because he had murdered his brother. I was completely hooked from the start, and it ended on an eerie note. Although that was the only story I found particularly memorable, my next favorite was the haunting tale “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold.” In this one, a woman travels far away to marry a man and keeps hearing sad singing in the middle of the night—but is told she must be dreaming it when she asks, even though those who tell her she’s imagining it seem afraid.

These stories are rather open ended, and I had conflicting feelings about wanting a more concrete conclusion with most of them, especially “His Face All Red.” I wanted to have a firmer idea of how each story ended, but at the same time, leaving it open to the imagination allows one to consider all sorts of horrific possibilities about what happened!

While there was only one story I found particularly compelling, Through the Woods is an enjoyable, quick read, especially if one is in the mood for a book that bridges the line between fantasy and horror.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.

The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf
by Tia Nevitt
131pp (Ebook)
My Rating: 6/10
Amazon Rating: 4.2/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.8/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.78/5

Book Description from Goodreads:

Book two in Accidental Enchantments.

Prince Richard is cursed. Enslaved to a magic mirror, he must truthfully answer the evil queen when she uses it to call on him. To keep from betraying innocents, Richard wanders the countryside and avoids people.

All her life, Gretchen has been teased for being small. When she hears of a hidden farm populated by little people like her, she sets out to find it—and is welcomed by the mostly male inhabitants. Lars in particular woos her with his gentle kindness and quiet strength.

Danger looms when Gretchen meets a runaway princess and offers her shelter at the Little Farm. Wandering nearby, Richard instantly falls in love with the beautiful princess, and is later compelled to tell the queen that she is not the fairest of them all. Enraged, the queen vows to find them and destroy them.

If either Gretchen or Richard are to have their happy endings, they must team up to break the mirror’s spell before the queen kills them all…

For another fairy tale retelling from Tia Nevitt, check out The Sevenfold Spell, available now!

43,000 words

While it’s technically the second book in a series, The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf by Tia Nevitt can be read before the first. Both this and the first book, The Sevenfold Spell, are based on fairy tales, but each tells a complete story featuring a different set of characters so it’s not necessary to read them in a particular order.

The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf is an entertaining, quick read loosely based on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” It contains some familiar elements, such as the inclusion of an evil queen, a princess, and the two characters mentioned in the title, but these are combined into a completely new tale that only has basic similarities with the familiar story. One of the main characters, the titular seventh dwarf, finds both love and friendship while the other main character, a prince bound to a magic mirror, attempts to thwart the queen who would use his knowledge for evil.

My favorite aspect of the story was how it added depth to the idea of one being declared the “fairest of them all.” Inner beauty was a factor, and it also acknowledged that beauty is in the eye of the beholder rather than there being one person universally thought to be the fairest of them all.

It’s a cute story and an interesting and unique retelling of “Snow White.” I didn’t love The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf since I didn’t find the story and characters quite as engaging as I would have liked, but I did appreciate the thought that went into it.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: Electronic copy from the author.

Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales
by Paula Guran (Editor)
266pp (Ebook)
My Rating: 6/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.8/5

Book Description from Goodreads:

Eighteen extraordinary authors devise all-new fairy tales: imaginative reinterpretations of the familiar, evocative new myths, speculations beyond the traditional realm of “once upon a time.” Often dark, occasionally humorous, always enthralling, these stories find a certain Puss in a near-future New York, an empress bargaining with a dragon, a princess turned into a raven, a king’s dancing daughters with powerful secrets, great heroism, terrible villainy, sparks of mischief, and a great deal more. Brilliant dreams and dazzling nightmares with meaning for today and tomorrow…

Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales is an anthology containing 18 stories, brief commentary on each by the author, and an introduction by the editor. Authors include Tanith Lee, Cinda Williams Chima, Jane Yolen, Ekaterina Sedia, and Yoon Ha Lee. A full list of the table of contents is on the publisher’s website.

The highlight was “The Coin of Heart’s Desire” by Yoon Ha Lee, inspired in part by Korean folktales about the Dragon King Under the Sea. It’s a gorgeously written story about a dragon and an empress, and it made me want to read more by the author. Even though I much prefer novels to short stories, I now very much want to read Yoon Ha Lee’s short story collection Conservation of Shadows based solely on the strength of this one story.

Another one of my favorites was “Castle of Masks” by Cory Skerry, a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling. In this version of the tale, the beast required that a woman be sent to his castle once a year as a sacrifice. A young man decided this needed to stop and pretended to be a woman in order to go to the castle and put an end to this odious practice. Although I was drawn in to this story (based on one of my favorite fairy tales!) from the beginning, I was also a little concerned about where it was going—it was going to be quite annoying if a man stepped in and fixed everything by going to the castle in guise when so many women had gone before him! Fortunately, it did not end predictably.

As is often the case with anthologies and short story collections, this is a mixed bag. There weren’t any stories I really disliked, but there were also a few I didn’t find compelling. However, there were a few I liked very much indeed. In addition to the two mentioned above, the other stories I found particularly enjoyable were “Below the Sun Beneath” by Tanith Lee, “Flight” by Angela Slatter, and “Egg” by Priya Sharma.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: PDF from the editor.